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3-D Printing

3-D printing is scaling up

Companies at a major trade show launched efforts at mass production

by Alexander H. Tullo
November 20, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 46


A photo of an Arkema 3-D printing center in Normandy, France.
Credit: Arkema
Arkema's new 3-D printing center in Normandy, France.

Suppliers of materials and equipment for 3-D printing are gearing up for large-scale production. That was the theme of announcements coming out of the Formnext 3-D printing show, held Nov. 19–22 in Frankfurt, Germany.

The time is right to scale up, according to the consulting group Deloitte. The firm projects 3-D printing–related sales at large, publicly traded firms to reach $2.7 billion this year and says the sector is growing at an annual rate of over 12%.

In an announcement made on the eve of the show, the largest publicly traded chemical maker, BASF, said it would acquire the 3-D printing service provider Sculpteo. Based in Paris and San Francisco, Sculpteo makes 3-D printed prototypes and parts out of materials such as nylon 12 for customers who send it files online.

BASF plans to expand the business into a global network. The German firm also says owning Sculpteo will allow it to market new printing materials more quickly.

“Together with Sculpteo, we are pursuing our goal of establishing additive manufacturing as a proven technology for industrial mass production,” Dietmar Bender, managing director of BASF 3D Printing Solutions, says in a statement.

The polymer maker Braskem and Advanced Laser Materials, a laser sintering machine subsidiary of the printer giant EOS, announced the first fruit of their 2-year collaboration: a polypropylene printing powder. To be released next year, the material is intended for aerospace, automotive, and packaging applications.

Arkema, which offers materials such as nylons 11 and 12 for 3-D printing, says it inaugurated a center of excellence for 3-D printing in Normandy, France. The center will house collaboration areas and laser sintering machines.

At the show, 3-D printing technology company Carbon launched its latest printing machine, the L1, which prints photocurable materials such as polyurethanes, silicones, and epoxies. The L1 is already used by key Carbon customers such as Adidas. It will begin shipping more widely next year at a cost of $250,000 per year for a 3-year lease.


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