New Research Pact on 3-D Printing for Specialty Polymers

Solvay Specialty Polymers (Bollate, Italy) has entered into a research collaboration agreement with Aerosint (Liège, Belgium) to develop an economically viable selective laser sintering (SLS) printing process for high-performance polymers.

According to the company, polymers such as its KetaSpire polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and Ryton polyphenylene sulfide have the potential to open new avenues in additive manufacturing. However, the company notes that their adoption with key powder fusion technologies, such as SLS, remains limited.

“SLS machines that can process high-temperature polymers are carefully designed and assembled with sophisticated and expensive components,” says Edouard Moens, managing director with the Belgian startup company. Established in 2016, the company has developed a selective powder deposition system that enables full three-dimensional (3-D) control over material placement in powder-bed fusion printing processes.

“At present, there is a significant operating cost disadvantage during the build, which is the excessive waste of up to 90% of ‘used-but-unfused’ powder,” Moens adds. “Our patented spatially-selective, multiple-powder deposition system under development incorporates a non-fusible support material in each layer where expensive high-performance polymers are not required, thereby reducing material waste to very low levels.”

Effectively, the company’s main invention is an alternate powder recoating system that—instead of uniformly spreading just one single powder material—can selectively deposit two or more powders to form a single layer containing two or more materials.

Solvay has cooperated with the startup company for over two years by supporting the development of the technology with advanced materials, as well as process and fusion expertise.

“As with all innovative, groundbreaking technologies, there are many challenges to overcome,” says Solvay’s Brian Alexander, global product and application manager for additive manufacturing. “One of them is to develop and fully optimize high-performance additive manufacturing polymer powders for use at high temperatures alongside non-fusible materials in a multi-powder deposition process. Not only will this technology make 3-D printing of high-performance polymers more affordable, it also will open up its potential to become a competitive industrial process for additive manufacturing system manufacturers in the medical, aerospace, and automotive sectors.”

Source: Solvay Specialty Polymers, www.solvayspecialtypolymers.com.