Evonik and Evolve Additive Solutions partner to develop new materials for STEP 3D printing

Evonik, a leading German chemical company, has announced a partnership with Evolve Additive Solutions to advance the range of thermoplastic materials for Evolve’s Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP) technology.

“STEP has been developed for volume manufacturing so offering the widest range of thermoplastic materials to our customers is a critical element for production,” stated Steve Chillscyzn, CEO of Evolve Additive Solutions.

“The joint development agreement with Evonik allows us to broaden the spectrum of STEP materials to include materials currently accepted by OEMs from additive manufacturing, but more importantly to debut a whole new set of materials opening up more applications that can take advantage of everything additive manufacturing offers.”

Optimizing thermoplastics for 3D printing

Since its founding in 2007, Evonik has produced a range of specialty polymer powders such as PEBA and PEEK. The company is also known for its Polyamide 12 (PA 12) range of powder called VESTOSINT, which can be customized for SLS, HSS (High Speed Sintering), and Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing. The collaboration with Evolve will initially focus on PA 12 and PEBA polymers.

Processing of VESTOSINT PA12 at Evonik. Photo via Evonik.
Processing of VESTOSINT PA12 at Evonik. Photo via Evonik.

PA 12 protects against chemical and water as well as being tough and resistant to stress, fatigue cracking and has durability over a wide temperature range from -40°C to 90°C. Due to its strong mechanical and chemical properties, this material is used for automotive and lightweight design as well as in oil and gas pipelines.

Recently, the company announced the closure of its Witten plant to establish a new €400 million plant for the production of PA12. Evonik has also been strengthening its additive materials offerings with the acquisition of Austin-based startup Structured Polymers, a producer of colored powders for SLS, earlier this year.

“Evolve’s entirely new technology approach will allow us to expand the range of applications of our high-performance materials, which are produced through a unique production process,” added Thomas Grosse-Puppendahl, the Head of the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Growth Field at Evonik.”

“With more than 20 years of experience in 3D printing, we will also develop a wider range of customized material formulations to unlock the full potential of the STEP technology.”

Taking STEP beyond Alpha

Evolve Additive, an OEM which started out life in Stratasys’ R&D labs, officially spun out from the company in 2017, developing STEP technology. This was unveiled as a new, high-speed plastics 3D printing process said to be up to “50 times faster than the next fastest AM plastics technology.”

STEP is based on the proprietary technology behind most photocopiers and laser printers and has been developed to process thermoplastic materials quickly, offering isotropic properties in X, Y, and Z, and rival the surface finish of traditional methods. The last few years has seen Evolve focus on the commercialization and industrial application of STEP.

In September 2018, the company received $19 million in investment to help the company achieve a Beta stage rollout of its STEP 3D printers. This was followed in November by news of a partnership with Kodak to develop Evolve’s 3D printing technology for commercial release in 2020.

Presently, STEP is still in the alpha development phase and is expected to be ready for the market by the end of 2020.

You will be able to learn more about Evonik by visiting booth C71 in hall 12.1 at the Formnext trade show, taking place in Frankfurt, Germany, November 19-22.

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Featured image shows objects 3D printed using Evolve’s range of additive materials. Photo via Evolve Additive Solutions.