The companies aim to optimize the materials for 3D printing production applications

November 11, 2021

DÜSSELDORF, Germany and VENTURA, California—Nexa3D, a maker of polymer 3D printers, reported that it inked an exclusive material development agreement with Henkel, a developer of functional polymers. The agreement builds upon the companies’ partnership and deepens their joint commitment to advancing the capabilities of additive manufacturing (AM) for volume production, Nexa3D said in a release.

The two companies plan to develop next-generation functional polymers that leverage their combined technologies, specifically targeting volume production opportunities in industrial casting, footwear, medical, and consumer goods industries, according to the release.

As part of their expanding partnership, Nexa3D and Henkel are developing a new casting material for industrial metal castings that are suitable for such applications as automotive, robotics, heavy machinery, and hydraulics. Manufacturers can use the material to reduce the weight of parts with complex geometries, while also consolidating parts. According to Nexa3D, it opens the door to affordable, lightweight parts at high production volumes.

Nexa3D said in the release that the new class of functional material is “fully optimized for ultrafast 3D printing workflows.” Advanced design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) tools can further optimize the results that are possible when using the material, enabling reductions in material and energy consumption, as well as final part weights and costs, the company said.

According to the release, Nexa3D’s “ultrafast” additive production platform and Henkel’s development of a new generation of casting material is a combination that can digitize the casting workflow of foundries looking to upgrade from traditional wax tooling to additive manufacturing. This development is said to deliver all the benefits of traditional metal additive manufacturing at 20-times higher productivity, using supply chain-approved metals without compromising on quality.

Traditional manufacturing methods, such as using wax patterns, commonly require expensive tooling and refrigerated transport to maintain their shape during transport. Th new casting material is said to produce thermally stable patterns, eliminating the need for refrigerated containers or bespoke tooling for each design. The parts are also more sustainable, compared to traditional stereolithography processes, because they use fresh resin, rather than resin from a large vat that requires constant energy to maintain, the company said.

“We have found that fewer than five percent of the more than 45,000 foundries globally currently use 3D printing, with adoption typically constrained by technology being either too slow or too expensive,” explained Kevin McAlea, COO of Nexa3D, in the release. “Compared to traditional stereolithography printers, the combination of this new material and our ultrafast technology offers 20X productivity and produces far more robust parts. Foundries and patternmakers now have access to a complete digital workflow that enables them to speed up production and post-processing to develop patterns faster.

“Our extended partnership with Henkel also allows us to deliver new additive solutions to the market at a time when traditional supply chains are stretched and brittle,” McAlea continued. “We’re not simply suggesting existing materials to customers—we are tailoring the material solution to suit our customers’ applications. For example, we are currently collaborating with Henkel on a new generation of ultrafast functional materials that improve modelling cycle time by orders of magnitude capabilities.”

“In order to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing, we recognize that materials need to be customized for a given printer platform to meet the specific needs of the end user,” said Simon Mawson, senior vice president and global head of 3D printing and incubator businesses at Henkel, in the release. “By entering into a formal material development agreement with Nexa3D, we can now leverage the power of Albert, our highly agile, proprietary, digital innovation platform, to unlock the full potential of the Loctite photopolymers portfolio and Nexa3D’s ultrafast additive production platform.

“Our partnership with Nexa3D has provided exciting new opportunities to the manufacturing market and has tested our material development capabilities,” added Mawson. “By collaborating with Nexa3D on this exclusive material and to develop custom tailored materials in the future, their customers will gain the benefits of our expert material development skills and Nexa3D’s rapid 3D printing abilities—a combination that is not available anywhere else on the market.”

Nexa3D and Henkel’s established partnership has already resulted in the introduction of a new class of medical device, as well as a dedicated center for additive manufacturing advancement. The 3D printed SKOP telemedicine stethoscope was created using biomimicry design concepts, color-matched materials, and complex geometries that are said to be possible only via 3D printing. The SKOP arose from a collaboration among Nexa3D’s technology, Henkel’s materials, contract manufacturing from Third, and healthcare company WeMed, according to the release.

Nexa3D and Henkel further launched the NextFactory in Ventura, California this year as a full-scale additive manufacturing customer center. The center offers customers access to integrated post-processing technologies, material formulation customization, color matching, and a variety of finishing options, Nexa3D said.

Nexa3D said that it will work with Henkel toward further targeted formulations following the launch of the new casting material. “Applications in healthcare, footwear manufacture, and consumer goods, for example, offer ample opportunity for next-generation functional materials and ultrafast 3D printing production capabilities,” the company said.

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