The rapid unwinding and consolidation in the global plastics industry is happening so fast that it seems major technology innovations are in danger of getting caught in the shuffle. Example: three to four years ago LPKF Laser and Electronics signed licensing agreements with BASF, Ticona, Degussa, and Bayer to develop materials that could be used in laser direct sintering. Most importantly, the materials need to incorporate laser-sensitive additives that contain metal. The plastics are then treated with lasers that engrave conducting tracks on the molded component. The parts are then metallized. The process is booming despite the fact that previous efforts at molded interconnect devices stalled, primarily due to high cost of tooling and equipment for two-shot processes. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. Bayer spun out its polyester business to a new company called Lanxess, and Degussa last fall became part of a company called Evonik Industries, a major specialty chemical company. Lanxess didn’t seem to lose a beat, and even introduced a new application last year. It’s less clear what’s happening with the Degussa project.
Many of the materials in this slideshow are resins or elastomers, plus reinforced materials, styrenics, and PLA masterbatches. Applications range from automotive and aerospace to industrial, consumer electronics and wearables, consumer goods, medical and healthcare, as well as sporting goods, and materials for protecting food and beverages.
Engineers trying to keep track of the ever-ballooning number of materials and machines for additive manufacturing and 3D printing now have some relief: a free searchable database with more than 350 machines and 450 different materials.
At JEC Europe Dow Automotive introduced a new ultra-fast, under-60-second molding cycle time for its commercial-grade VORAFORCE 5300 epoxy resin matrix for carbon composites. It's aimed at high-volume automotive manufacturing.
Proto Labs is now offering an optical liquid silicone rubber (LSR) quick-turn molding service using Dow Corning's LSR material. Optical LSR is a transparent, flexible thermoset material that's replacing glass in many optical applications, especially lighting.
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