Leverkusen, Germany -- Bayer MaterialScience and Solid Composites GmbH announced 6 July that they have agreed a partnership to develop thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) powders for selective laser sintering (SLS).
SLS is an innovative method for fabricating three-dimensional structures, based on the use of a laser beam to sinter powdered materials.
Start-up company Solid Composites, based in Voerde, on the Lower Rhine, will be awarded a brand license to market the new high-tech materials under the name Desmosint. Solid Composites is a spin-off by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology (UMSICHT).
BMS said in a statement that the move "opens the door to numerous potential applications, for instance in the automotive industry, in sports goods, robotics or aerospace engineering."
"Solid Composites has made a name for itself as a creative developer and supplier of thermoplastic powders for laser sintering and electrostatic coating, among other things, and is therefore the partner of choice for us when it comes to successfully marketing our TPU innovation," said Jürgen Hättig, TPU marketing specialist at Bayer MaterialScience.
In SLS, a part is made from a thermoplastic powder based on the part's structural design data. Guided by CAD software, a laser fuses successive layers of a powder bed at selected points where the part is to emerge. The part "grows" layer by layer." It eliminates the need for moulds, cutting costs considerably.
Also, in contrast to injection moulding, "even parts having complex geometries with cavities and undercuts can be rendered," explained Marcus Rechberger, general manager of Solid Composites.
Until now, SLS materials were either soft, elastic materials or rigid thermoplastics such as polyamide. "Our TPU products, with their high toughness, elasticity and strength, have now closed the gap between these material classes. And that opens the door to good application opportunities," Hättig said.
The first new TPU, Desmosint X 92 A-1, can be processed layer by layer at a temperature of only 80 deg C, in contrast to polyamide, which has to be processed at slightly below its melting temperature.
"Because heating the processing space generates most of the total energy cost, this method results in significant savings on energy. And our TPU has only a very low tendency to warp, meaning the sintering process runs very stably. Lastly, the non-sintered powder does not age inside the processing space and therefore can be used for the next job, an enormous cost advantage compared to the classical laser sintering material PA12," Hättig said.