Solvay is using the Polimotor plastic-engine project as a testbed for developing what it feels will be a big business opportunity in additive manufacturing.
A plenum chamber for Matti Holzberg’s second go at a plastic engine was made with a modified DTM selective laser sintering (SLS) machine at a research center in Lyon, France focusing on polyamide for additive manufacturing. The part has a 40 percent loading of glass beads. Solvay launched its Sinterline range of PA6 powders for SLS four years ago.
A separate location using highly modified desktop 3D printers at Alpharetta, Georgia, made a fuel intake runner for the Polimotor 2 from carbon-reinforced polyetheretherketone (PEEK).
Solvay also has established a facility at in Brussels, Belgium, to develop AM software design, using Digimat from e-Xstream, an MSC Software company
“We also have collaborations with universities and equipment manufacturers,” said Ralph Rissé, business development manager for Solvay’s Engineering Plastics business unit, in an interview on Monday at the Solvay stand at K2016.
Heading up development of Solvay’s development of Solvay’s high-heat engineering plastics in Alpharetta is Brian Alexander.
“Additive manufacturing (AM) has emerged as a complementary plastics conversion technology of its own right and is increasingly advancing the particular needs of highly complex parts not possible through conventional melt processes,” said Alexander. “As the processes and equipment develop, there is still a lack of reliable high performance materials sourcing and standardization. Solvay is determined to play a leading role in expanding the available polymer choice and optimizing the supply chain for AM based on a solid understanding of the technology and comprehensive customer support.”
Holtzberg’s goal is to develop a four-cylinder, double-overhead CAM engine weighing approximately 40kg less than today’s standard production engine.
Alexander said that Solvay is using the experience with Polimotor to see how AM might extend its value beyond prototype parts. Key target markets are healthcare and aerospace, big markets that make extensive use of Solvay high-end plastics and don’t require the large parts’ volumes of automotive. That’s the sweet spot for additive manufacturing, which has slow build times, but can manufacture highly complex parts.
Increasingly, the battlefield is not equipment, but materials. All the big resin manufacturers hope to replace expensive, proprietary plastics required by Stratasys, EOS, and 3D Systems
“A recent study of the plenum for the Polimotor 2 project confirmed that AM offers a significant, yet grossly under-utilized potential for light-weighting and complex design, even beyond the scope of injection molding,” said Dominique Giannotta, Sinterline Program Leader for Solvay’s Engineering Plastics Business Unit. “However, to fully take advantage of this powerful potential, industrial designers must begin to conceive parts for additive manufacturing from day one.”
Solvay said that its PA 6 SLS materials have better stiffness and thermal resistance than PA11 or PA12 that are used in SLS. They are available in neat and glass-bead filled grades. An unfilled grade has passed compliance testing for USP class VI medical applications.
Alexander’s group is working on AvaSpire polyaryletherketone (PAEK), KetaSpire polyetheretherketone (PEEK), and Radel polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) for fused-filament fabrication (FFF), and polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) compatible with SLS. Several products are expected to be available for sampling by the end of 2016, including neat and fiber-filled grades of Solvay’s KetaSpire PEEK and Radel PPSU for FFF 3D printing process.