Chemical Giant Increases Focus on Additive Manufacturing with Creation of BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH

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Global chemical giant BASF isn’t new to 3D printing. The company has been increasingly involved in high-profile partnerships in additive manufacturing, including significant work with HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion technology and Essentium Materials’ new FlashFuse technology. BASF has expanded on these partnerships, telling us more about their rising commitment to the materials at play in these up-and-coming technologies as they have focused on materials for production-quality 3D printing and even work in bioprinting. Today, BASF SE announced the creation, effective September 1, 2017, of a new business dedicated to additive manufacturing.

BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BASF New Business GmbH, will focus entirely on 3D printing with a team initially comprised of approximately 30 expert employees. To be headed by BASF New Business Managing Director Volker Hammes, who will become the Managing Director of BASF 3D Printing Solutions, the new business is drawing largely from BASF’s experienced internal team.

Two airless tires that were created with 3D printing technologies using thermoplastic polyurethane from BASF [Image: BASF]

“The field of 3D printing for industrial applications is highly dynamic and still emerging,” said Hammes of the perceived need for the new business. “This means there is a need for agile, startup-like structures with interdisciplinary teams and quick decision-making processes. Combining the customer-focused 3D printing activities in one location at a dedicated business is an important success factor.”

Heidelberg, Germany will be the home of the new business, at the InnovationLab GmbH site. There, BASF 3D Printing Solutions will focus on, the company says, 3D printing materials, system solutions, components, and services, working closely with internal and external researchers and application engineers. Potential external partners include universities as well as customers.

Volker Hammes spoke to the hopes and dreams made possible via 3D printing at MWS17 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Collaboration with partners has been a key part of BASF’s additive manufacturing strategy. Managing Director designate Hammes spoke to this importance a few months ago at Materialise World Summit, where he said:

“We need the best minds working together… There is too much protectionism, too much talking about who gets how much share while the market is still fully developing.”

During his session at MWS — titled “Chemistry enabled AM offers solutions for current and future needs” — Hammes explained that he has been the head of BASF’s 3D printing business unit since 2016. He presented a level-headed approach to the place of additive manufacturing in production processes, noting that “there’s too much talk of ‘we should replace injection molding’,” and that he sees a trend that often the best approach to technology comes from combined approaches.

Hammes discussing BASF business strategy as it relates to 3D printing at MWS17 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Additional highlights from his discussion at that time regarding the present and the future of additive manufacturing included that AM:

  • Is truly different from classical material processing
  • Means design and process are as important as material properties
  • Initially manages risks through over-engineering and learning with few materials
  • Is triggered by different buying motives, too early for classical industry segmentation
  • Is a journey. The step from rapid design prototyping to industrial manufacturing of functional parts is strongly underestimated

New chemistry, he added to that list, is a key enabler, but co-innovation is in dire need. Hammes said that BASF became serious about additive manufacturing around 2012-2013 and that by mid-2017, “I think we are very serious about it.”

This sentiment was mirrored by partner Essentium, as that company’s President and CTO, Blake Teipel, PhD, told me at RAPID + TCT in May that “They’re very serious about AM.” He noted that while BASF had had a small showing two years ago at the annual AMUG conference, for 2017 they had grown to become a show sponsor with a fully outlined, tiered approach to additive manufacturing.

“They’re globally positioned, have many customers and great material technology; talk about a trusted leader, BASF has been around for a century,” Teipel told me.

BASF’s entire business provides a relevant landscape for its work in 3D printing, as discussed at MWS17 [Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

BASF 3D Printing Solutions will be working to meet a wide variety of requirements for its customers, which will largely be those companies focusing on industrial production applications for 3D printing. Among the industries targeted are aerospace, automotive, and consumer goods production.

The new company will be gaining resources through the taking over and expansion of BASF New Business subsidiary Deutsche Nanoschicht GmbH in Heidelberg, where new solutions will be developed and tested.

We reached out to BASF for additional comment on the new business, but unfortunately the German team were unavailable for further detail at this time. Discuss in the BASF forum at 3DPB.com.

 

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