Arkema and Its Sartomer Subsidiary Invest in Increased Production Capacities for Advanced 3D Printing Materials

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In late 2015, Arkema, one of the largest specialty chemical and advanced materials developers, announced that it would be increasing its focus on 3D printing materials research. The company, which hopes that its advanced materials will eventually account for over 25% of its sales, has been busy making good on this announcement, being named as one of four open materials partners for HP’s Multi Jet Fusion system, and this week, Arkema announced a major investment plan in its biosourced polyamide 11 chain, in hopes of increasing its production capacities for the material in Asia. The investment plan – €300 million over the next five years to build a world-scale plant in the region – is right on track with the company’s strategy of ramping up its development of advanced materials for 3D printing.

The new plant will complement the company’s historical site in France, and be dedicated to producing Rilsan PA11 biosourced polyamide from castor oil; the goal is to have the plant, which will be Arkema’s second amino 11 monomer production site, up and running by 2021. Rilson PA11 (powder and granule) is the only 100% high-performance biosourced polyamide that qualifies for specific, detailed applications in the 3D printing, electronics, and automotive markets, where it’s currently used as a metal substitute.

“This project represents a milestone in the development of our specialty polyamides over the next few years. We send this message out to our customers with confidence and pride,” said Thierry Le Hénaff, the CEO and chairman of Arkema. “Today more than ever, we stand by our customers to offer them ultra high-tech biosourced product ranges. Our aim is to support their development all around the world with innovation-driven expert teams at their service.”

By building a second plant, Arkema will be able to increase its production capacity of Rilsan PA11 by 50%. The €300 million investment also covers a 50% increase in the worldwide production capacities for its Pebax thermoplastic elastomer family, especially its biosourced polyamide elastomer Pebax RNew, which lists amino 11 as one of its main components. The material is often used in the electronics and sports markets, as it offers unique features like flexibility and energy return.

The specialty polyamides company already gets 40% of its sales from Asia, but the investment project will help raise its commercial, industrial, and R&D presence there. Additionally, the project shows its Asian customers the company’s long-term commitment to fulfilling demand in the region, by endeavoring to offer biosourced solutions to help offset the challenge of materials design.

Additionally, Arkema is increasing the production capacity of photocure resins at its Sartomer subsidiary in China by over 30%. Sartomer, which has production sites and R&D facilities in the US, Europe, and Asia, has also been focused on advanced 3D printing materials, and launched its new advanced acrylate and methacrylate solutions under its N3xtDimension trade name a few months ago. Arkema announced that its Nansha site would soon undergo construction for a new production line for LED, UV, and Electron Beam photocure resins, which should be available in early 2019.

The line will meet increased customer demand in the region’s 3D printing, inkjet printing, and electronics markets, and will make high-performance photocure resins, which will be used to manufacture and design printed circuits and screens for TVs, tablets, and smartphones; this will allow Sartomer to benefit from the expected 10% annual growth in the electronics and 3D printing niche markets. The specialty resins are solvent-free and environmentally friendly, and comply with global standards on volatile organic compound (VOC) low emissions.

3D printing is transforming the face of manufacturing in many fields all over the world, but you can’t get far without the proper materials. Oerlikon and Roboze are just a few of the companies who have recently announced initiatives to study and develop materials for 3D printing, so advanced materials research certainly seems to be the way to go. Discuss in the Arkema forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images: Arkema]

 

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