Jul 22, 2016 | By Alec

The future of 3D printing is looking bright. Especially the industrial 3D printing revolution is picking up speed, as more and more corporations are adopting 3D printing for a variety of applications. While this level of progress is quickly turning industrial 3D printing into a multi-billion dollar industry, it also highlights several material problems. For various tools, adhesives, paints and other materials that are used for conventional components might not be perfectly suitable for 3D printed alternatives. German international product developer Henkel has therefore begun developing very appealing adhesives for 3D printing applications, which could make the technology even more appealing in industrial circles.

Henkel, of course, is a renowned German product developer that employs 50,000 people all over the world. Though focused on both the industrial and consumer markets, they are especially known for operating in three business units: laundry & home care (with products like Persil and Fa), beauty care, and adhesive, coating and sealing solutions for industrial clients.

But the growth of the 3D printing sector has not escaped their eye either. And as the company reveals, they were particularly surprised by the fact that about 70 percent of all 3D printers sold over 2015 went to consumers. “These are most likely to be small, low-cost units with relatively limited capabilities,” they conclude. While the industrial-level 3D printers are still number one when it comes to actual sales value, Henkel believes that the popularity of industrial 3D printing can certainly increase when new ways are found through which 3D printers can be introduced into the value chain on a large scale.

While numerous companies are working hard to improve technologies and lower their cost, Henkel instead turned to their own expertise in the fields of adhesives, sealants and functional coatings, and is now working hard to develop “advanced material solutions that enable functional prototypes to be created through 3D printing and help industrialize the technology in manufacturing,” they say. In particular, they are focusing on adhesives that can be used for 3D printed components made for the construction, furniture and automotive industries, and they are working with a network of partners and startups in those fields already.

And they have found remarkable successes already. Several of Henkel’s adhesive solutions are already being used in construction projects that involve 3D printing, such as the ‘Europe Building’ in Amsterdam – a mobile conference building 3D printed for the occasion of the Dutch EU Council Presidency. “The temporary conference center was created as a collaborative effort between a group of tech and design firms. Henkel contributed to the ecosystem by partnering with leading 3D print designers, DUS Architects, to provide the hotmelt adhesive formulation for creating the impressive front façade of the building,” Henkel reveals.

But their adhesive solutions are used in other sectors as well. Several furniture partners, the company reveals, are already using Henkel hotmelt adhesives to create industrial 3D printed prototypes. Among others, a whole first generation of 3D printed furniture – including stools, chairs and lamp shades – have already been assembled with this custom adhesive solution.

But Henkel is perhaps most proud of their achievements in the automotive industry, where the Heidelberg Competence Center for the automotive industry has already been using their UV curable adhesives to develop complex 3D printed parts for various international car developers. In particular, they are using the adhesives to assemble functional prototypes that can be tested in a variety of ways. “In the process of realizing automotive concepts from sketches, UV curable adhesives enable 3D printing with different materials,” they say.

What’s more, these initial applications have shown that Henkel’s adhesives save a lot of time when it comes to assembling automotive prototypes – enabling engineers to quickly test and refine new designs. “It allows the prototypes to be delivered within hours or days,” the company said.

But Henkel is also looking to the future, when final parts might be increasingly 3D printed in new materials -which would need new adhesives. “Henkel is developing adhesive solutions which enable the usage of new materials, breakthrough finishes and shorter lead times in 3D printing. These innovations will pave the way for 3D printing technology to be more closely integrated with the automotive manufacturing process, for example in the creation of 3D printed cars and spare parts,” they say. It just shows that 3D printing innovations alone are not enough to create a revolution. The whole production process and all its accessories must adapt to 3D printing as well, and Henkel is working hard to make that possible.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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