High-tech polymer materials provider Covestro will unveil a new type of printhead at Formnext. The new head offers a film extrusion additive manufacturing technology rather than relying on filaments. Covestro states that such a method provides a “far more efficient” means of processing plastics in terms of cost and throughput.
Covestro’s latest device is also interesting in that it doesn’t require purchasing a new printer. The company has developed this printhead as more of an add-on for semi-finished products. Users can simply replace the conventional print head and convert their machines from FFF/FDM to film extrusion. In many ways, these two processes are very similar.
In film extrusion, the printer uses a continuous sheet or strip similar to a filament spool. The film passes through a cooled area into a heating zone, where it melts under the influence of the supplied thermal energy and becomes liquid. Just like with FDM, the melting material passes through a defined nozzle geometry and forms the eventual print.
Advantages of Film Extrusion
As a polymer materials provider, Covestro has a wide range of polymer material films in its portfolio. It would naturally be a good move in terms of vertical integration and market expansion to start providing products that aid the sales of their primary product. It’s also a novel strategy to introduce a printhead instead of a full printer.
There are some advantages of films over filament that the company stresses:
The throughput of a print head for films is significantly higher than that of a print head for filaments. In addition, the production of the films is more cost-effective than filament production, and their storage requires less space. Compared to the standard filament production, extruded films also provide a higher precision, with virtually no deviations in film thickness. The use of films also opens up completely new possibilities for the combination of materials. Jonas Kuenzel, Technical Development
Many of the specifics of the printhead are currently unknown, so it’s hard to say what speed or resolution it provides. However, it does offer the advantage of a possibly cheaper film-based thermoplastic processing. This may also be fruitful in terms of quality since the company’s extensive list of thermoplastics is already in use for a range of industries including automotive, construction and electronics.
We’re sure to find out more at Formnext, running from the 19th to the 22nd.
Featured image courtesy of Covestro.