Covestro’s Step Forward In 3D Printing
Covestro is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-tech polymer materials. Their products and application solutions can be found in many areas of modern life. Innovation and sustainability drive the company to constantly new developments – both in its products and in its processes and plants. Now the company is also dedicating itself to 3D printing.
The industrial world has discovered the advantages of 3D printing and is starting to integrate this technology into its processes more and more. Also many companies from a wide range of sectors like, for instance, Covestro are looking to use 3D printing in large-scale production over time. This would fundamentally change industrial manufacturing.
Start Running With Mass Production
To date, the step towards using 3D printing for mass production has never been made with seriousness due to a lack of efficiency and suitable printing materials. Established mass production technologies have around 3,000 materials available, but only about 30 of them are suitable for 3D printing. Because of this, it is rarely possible to match the physical and aesthetic properties of the final product to the desired result.
According to Covestro in Leverkusen, Germany, if the right raw materials are available in sufficient quantities, the best conditions are in place to integrate 3D printing into everyday industrial production. 3D printing offers new perspectives beyond niche applications such as rapid prototyping and enables broad use in series production.
As its materials polyurethane and polycarbonate are used in 3D printing, the company is able to exploit the full potential of 3D printing for industrial applications around the globe. New types of printing materials are being developed that support a variety of desirable properties such as hardness, heat resistance, transparency and flexibility.
Shoe Development As A Prime Example
One question that might come up now is: What exactly does Covestro produce in a 3D printer? The answer is both unusual and exciting. Together with various partners, Covestro has been able to realize interesting projects – from using 3D printing techniques to produce high-tech sneakers to orthopedic shoes. Thanks to a new type of shoe bonding technology used in this process, a giant step has been taken towards full automation, as in most cases, for example, shoes are still glued manually.
As a supplier of high-quality polymers for the footwear and textile industries, Covestro is not only helping its partners to implement an innovative concept that enables automatic and efficient bonding of the outsole to the shoe upper but also uses 3D printers themselves for manufacturing. A key component of this concept is an adhesive filament as a novel adhesive raw material.
A Peek Into The Crystal Ball
Thanks to the new concept, shoe stores will be able to combine sales and production into a single unit in the future – an approach that has already been tested at ATOM Lab, the research and innovation department of shoe manufacturer and Covestro partner ATOM.
The implementation looks like this: A 3D scanner scans the customer’s feet and a suitable shoe is configured based on this scan. With a single click, the personalized shoe is then produced right before the customer’s eyes.
Are the days over when we find the right shoe, but it’s no longer available in the desired size thanks to 3D printing? Will we soon be able to go to a shop and get a shoe that is exactly the way we want it, custom-made just for us?