Evonik acquires US-based startup Structured Polymers
EVONIK has acquired Structured Polymers Inc., a US-based technology startup for 3D printing materials headquartered in Austin, Texas. A corresponding agreement and plan of merger was executed and the transaction has been closed recently. The acquisition will provide Evonik access to a new patented technology that will allow the company to expand its portfolio of specialty polymer powders in the additive manufacturing market.
“The acquisition of Structured Polymers' technology excellently complements our existing activities with high-performance polymers for additive manufacturing,” says Dr. Ralph Marquardt, the head of Strategy and Growth Businesses for Evonik Resource Efficiency GmbH. “Thanks to our decades of expertise in polymer chemistry, this means we will expand our portfolio of customized, ready-to-use polymer materials for the highly attractive, rapidly growing 3D printing market, thus giving us a key role in shaping development of that market.”
Structured Polymers will be entirely integrated into Evonik's North American organization, while its company headquarters will remain in Austin, Texas.
“We are very pleased to harness the power of Evonik to expand our innovative technology platform even further. In the near future, this will allow us to diversify the 3D printing materials market to a significant degree and to work with our customers on developing new business opportunities,” says Vikram Devarajan, CEO of Structured Polymers Inc. Evonik already laid the foundations for an acquisition of the technology startup in the fall of 2017 through a venture capital investment.
New technology for 3D printing materials
Structured Polymers' innovative technology starts with a polymer granulate, which is converted to a fine powder through various process steps. This makes it possible to produce polymer powders with controlled particle sizes ranging in diameter between 0.1 and 400 µm, while achieving excellent material properties. “The new technology allows us to take virtually any semi-crystalline thermoplastic, such as polybutylene terephthalate, polyether ketone, or polyamide 6, or polymer powders with specialized properties like color, conductivity, or flame protection, and produce them for common powder-based 3D printing processes, such as selective laser sintering, high-speed sintering, or multi-jet fusion,” says Thomas Grosse-Puppendahl, the head of the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Growth Field at Evonik. “In addition, we anticipate that Structured Polymers' technology can be scaled up easily and economically.” The 3D printing market is booming with double-digit growth rates. Within this market, Evonik is the world's leading manufacturer of polyamide (PA) 12 powders, which have been used in additive production technologies for over 20 years. In addition to its PEEK filament and PA 12 powders, the company's product portfolio also includes flexible PEBA powders and a wide array of additives such as dispersing agents, flow enhancers, and reactive modifiers. Structured Polymers was founded in 2012 in Austin, Texas is led by founders Dr. Vikram Devarajan, Dr. Jim Mikulak, and Dr. Carl Deckard, along with a highly talented engineering team led by Dr. Abhimanyu Bhat, created a proprietary scalable process for commercializing high-performance polymer powders and is committed to expanding the availability of materials for 3D-printing. Evonik is one of the world leaders in specialty chemicals. The Resource Efficiency segment is led by Evonik Resource Efficiency GmbH and produces high performance materials and specialty additives for environmentally friendly as well as energy-efficient systems to the automotive, paints & coatings, adhesives, construction, and many other industries.
Further information can be had from www.evonik.com/additive-manufacturing.
3D Printing predictions for 2019
3D printing has come a long way from its origins in the 1980s, and mass production with additive manufacturing (AM) technology is just around the corner, as a number of companies introduce methods for batch 3D printing. To learn how the AM space will change in the next year, www.engineering.com conducted a survey from several experts in the space, including those from exciting new startups that will break onto the scene in 2019.
There is a strong sense in the industry that mass production is the next big thing in 3D printing and Christoph Schell, President 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing at HP Inc., seemed to lend credence to the buzz. “2019 will be the year that additive manufacturing moves from prototyping into full production in the automotive industry,” Schell said. “In the move to full production, 3D printing enables the automotive industry to innovate faster, leverage flexible manufacturing, reinvent supply chains, create new markets and produce new parts in new ways that were previously impossible.” In addition to potential improvements to time-to-market and cost reduction, mass production with 3D printing carries with it developments in the manufacturing supply chain. “In 2019, we'll see an increase in real-time supply chain traceability thanks to the integration of machine learning and 3D printing,” said Paul Benning, HP Senior Fellow and Chief Technologist of 3D Printing at HP Inc. “Continued advancements in artificial intelligence deliver the capability for a team of engineers and designers to monitor a finished 3D-printed part in the field in order to determine how it performs over its lifespan. The ability to uniquely peg each part with a unique serial number will improve the design configurations of these parts.”
While HP may be among the most well-known in the 3D printing space shooting for mass production, there are new startups like Evolve Additive and Origin that are using their own proprietary technologies for 3D printing large runs of plastic parts. Their technologies are covered in greater depth in our respective interviews with the companies, but it's worth noting how important materials are to Origin's unique 3D printing process.
A sneak peek of Origin’s unique 3D printing process. (Image courtesy of Origin.)
The startup's technology does not rely on oxygen for 3D printing photopolymer materials, opening the process up to a wider variety of materials, such as polyolefins. Through an open material API, Origin believes that more material makers will be able to develop plastics that work with the firm's process. Chris Prucha, CEO and founder of Origin, gave his prediction for the coming year, saying, “2019 will bring about a massive transformation of the additive material space — specifically in regard to photopolymers, genuinely open systems, and even M&A in the material space. Not only will we see the costs of photopolymers fall to levels that are competitive with SLS and FDM thermoplastic, but the mechanical performance of the newest photopolymers will exceed the best Nylon SLS printed parts. We'll also continue to see more and more R&D dollars being spent by large material and chemical companies into formulating new materials for open platforms, such as ours, that allow entirely new material chemistries to get to market and customers to control their own destiny.” Prucha highlighted the fact that these changes in material development will push us closer to additive mass manufacturing, ultimately opening up more applications, such as the production of auto parts and consumer goods at scale. Among the material companies Prucha may be referring to is BASF, the world's largest chemical business, which has been making a number of moves in the space as of late. Along with partnering with Origin, BASF has made a large investment in 3D printing software developer and service provider Materialise. In its own set of predictions for 2019, Materialise echoed Prucha's observation about plastics. Giovanni Vleminckx, a materials expert in the company's research and development team, explained in the Materialise report, “New materials for 3D printing were not being produced because they were not processable on commercially available machines. Now, large material suppliers are signaling their willingness and drive to push forward with 3D printing technology. That's leading to a steady fast growth for 3D printing plastics.”
EMG hosts Additive Manufacturing Forum in Shanghai at world's first 3D printing museum
EMG, the leading international B2B and industrial communications specialist, successfully completed its first 3D Additive Manufacturing forum in Shanghai on January 18, 2019. The event drew together over 30 speakers and delegates from industry, academia and media, and was jointly organized by EMG, Chuang Ke Jia Technology, the official name of the world's very first and only dedicated 3D printing museum located in Shanghai, and Nanjixiong.com, China's leading media outlet focused on 3D printing/additive manufacturing. Highlights from the event involved keynote presentations from resin and equipment makers, providing a platform for discussion and idea-exchange for local Chinese and international companies, industrial experts, research and academic institutions and key media outlets on the latest news and developments in the field. EMG's International Director John Gallagher, 3D Printing Cultural Museum Curator Ms. Julie Zhu, and Nanjixiong.com Chief Editor Mr. Pan Jinsong were the official co-hosts and delivered welcome speeches to the audience of over 30. Other key speakers included: Yao Zhijian, Key Account Manager from HP; David McCann, Senior Business Architect from Clariant; Cai Wanquan, Director of Operations from Aurora; and Tang Luji, technical Director Industrial Design at Qiaoliang. In recent years, Additive Manufacturing (known as “3D printing”) has made impressive progress in the areas of equipment, material, technology and application. China is at the heart of this development and the potential for growth is substantial. Statistics show that China's 3D printing market was estimated at RMB 8.2 billion in 2017, but the fast growth and demand has raised a few challenges. Failure to find suitable opportunities for industrialization, the lack of talent in the industry and the high cost of 3D printing have now become the main development bottlenecks for current China's 3D printing market. John Gallagher, EMG China said, “As a world-leading B2B marketing and communication agency, we have many clients in the resins, additives and equipment fields focused on 3D printing. We are extremely proud and honoured to organise this forum to provide a professional platform for leading 3D printing enterprises, industrial experts and leading media here in China where they can share the latest trends and insights, exchange ideas and encourage more innovation and growth. This event also provides a timely build up to the TCT Asia exhibition, which will be held in Shanghai from February 21-23 where EMG will be present supporting a number of our clients.” Ms. Julie Zhu, Curator of China 3D Printing Cultural Museum said, “The China 3D Printing Cultural Museum, 3D Printing Start-up Space and 3D Printing Research Center was established to create an eco-system and promote industrial development. With this forum held in Wisdom Bay today, we hope to connect every industrial innovator and trailblazer. At the beginning of the New Year, we gathered with industry experts from many well-known enterprises to deep dive into the global development trend of 3D printing and share the successful cases of 3D printing industry. The forum has been a great success. It has helped promote the establishment of 3D printing ecosystem and lead the Industry 4.0 era.” David McCann, Senior Business Architect from Clariant commented: “Clariant has recently entered into the 3D printing industry underpinned by its global resources and knowledge of specialty chemicals and resin materials. Clariant provides high quality materials and professional services to the 3D industry here in China and around the world. Thank you EMG for providing this great platform and hope we can have more opportunities to cooperate with enterprises in the 3D industry chain in the future.” James Yao, Key Account Manager at HP commented: “We are very glad to have this opportunity to introduce our HP digital transformation to the 3D industrial players. I hope EMG will hold more events like this in the future so we can continue to communicate and interact with many upstream and downstream enterprises to help drive the 3D industrial development.” Mr. Pan Xuesong, chief editor of Nanjixiong said: “China's 3D industry is constantly changing. Companies need to always pay attention to the overall changes and adjust their development strategy accordingly. In 2018, all the 3D printing enterprises in the world received more than RMB 20 billion of investment which is more than double the amount in 2017. In the economic winter, the 3D printing industry has been continuously recognized by the capital. It has passed the hype period and has entered a solid stage of development. We are optimistic about the future of the 3D printing industry.” Julie Jhu, 3D Printing Cultural Museum curator, commented: “The forum was very successfully organized. It gathered a diverse mix of people involved in the 3D printing industry and generated lots of discussion and networking. Everyone was very pleased with the event.” In addition to the discussions by leading 3D industry experts, the forum involved a brief tour of the 3D Printing Cultural Museum followed by a visit to the world's longest 3D footbridge, located next to the museum.
Essentium raises $22 million for high speed 3D printing
ESSENTIUM, a 3-D printing firm, raised $22 million in a Series A round led by BASF Venture Capital, whose investment manager, Sven Thate, will join its board of directors. Materialise and Genesis Park also invested, as did Essentium's previous seed investors. The funding has been in the works for some time, as College Station, Texas-based Essentium has been working closely with BASF and Materialise to advance its technologies. Essentium developed a High Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3-D printing platform, furthering work on its FlashFuse technology with BASF to enhance the mechanical strength of extrusion-based 3-D printing.Materialise is developing the software. Chemical giant BASF has also been working with both Materialise and Essentium; last year, the company announced a $25 million investment in Materialise and a materials partnership with Essentium to create a global material supply chain for HSE. The three companies are leveraging one another's expertise in processes, software and materials for advanced 3-D printing.
These three partners see a joint strength in working together to bring extrusion-based 3-D printing (known as Fused Filament Fabrication, or FFF, and commonly referred to by Stratasys' trademarked term Fused Deposition Modeling, or FDM) into manufacturing. FFF 3-D printing was at the heart of the crushing consumer bubble burst several years ago that led many to declare 3-D printing “dead” when the technology failed to live up to the hype around its reliability and ease of use for consumer technologies. As 3-D printing matures as part of a scalable additive manufacturing workflow, FFF/FDM is being re-examined as a process that is increasingly proving its applicability for industry and scale production.
Origin introduces open additive production – A new approach
ORIGIN, a new open platform for additive mass production, announced today it secured $10 million in Series-A funding led by Jason Krikorian of DCM. The company previously raised $2.3 million from Floodgate, Stanford University, Joe Montana, and other investors. With this round, Jason Krikorian joins Mike Maples, Jr. of Floodgate on Origin's Board of Directors.
Until now, additive manufacturing has been dominated by closed and inflexible systems with material only available from the printer manufacturer. Even systems described as having “open materials” are limited. The materials are confined to existing chemistries and heavily constrained by the print process. Origin has reshaped additive manufacturing and creating an open ecosystem, with new chemistries that will allow choice and product customization so companies can scale and meet demand in their market with the material of their choice. The company had recently announced a new partnership with BASF, one of the largest chemicals producers in the world, to develop material for Origin's “Open Additive Production” platform, which includes extensible software, modular hardware, and world-class materials from BASF and other partners.
The partnership between Origin and BASF is already bearing results. Working closely with BASF over the last year, Origin has developed a new print process for BASF's new photopolymers that produces a combination of surface finish, mechanical strength, and throughput that is unmatched in the industry. “Origin is poised to bring additive manufacturing beyond the current confines of prototyping to make a significant impact on the $600B plastics market,” said Jason Krikorian, General Partner at DCM. “We are strong believers that an open approach to materials will be key to unlocking the mass manufacturing potential of additive, and it's great to see BASF as the first example of an industry leader to formally embrace the platform.” “This is just the start of our partnership with BASF,” says Chris Prucha, Origin CEO and Founder. “We're excited to work with BASF to launch new materials that will go way beyond what's available today, and unlock high volume additive production. Our open network approach with BASF and other material partners will fundamentally reshape manufacturing and global supply chains.” With Origin's flexible printing process and BASF's new photopolymers, customers can achieve a rare combination of customization, strength, and throughput that surpasses anything on the market. Parts like this 21 x 21 x 114 mm textured sample can be rapidly printed and post cured in a range of custom textures and colors, with the mechanical strength required for a high volume manufactured part. “We're really excited about Origin's open platform and are investing a lot in this partnership,” said Arnaud Guédou, Business Director of Photopolymer Solutions at BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH. “We plan to work with Origin to optimize our photopolymers and other additive materials to create a whole series of new options for high volume manufacturers.”