Specialist-chemicals company Evonik is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its signature polymer, PEBA, with the release of it for use in 3D printing.
When we last reported on Evonik in August 2018, the German company announced the material’s development. With the landmark product already in use for select projects, it’s now being used to ceremonially mark the 40th birthday of its parent polymer.
A Brief History of PEBA
Since its release 40 years ago, PEBA (polyether block amide) has since impacted many different niches and industries. Its powdered-3D printing version is now just the latest in a long line of iterations on the material.
PEBA is a thermoplastic elastomer, a polymer blend that has characteristics of both plastic and rubber. The material is especially renowned for resilience to chemicals, a high degree of flexibility, and resistance to temperatures ranging from -40°C to 90°C. This adaptability has seen it commonly used to replace other popular elastomers like silicone and polyurethane.
One of its most popular uses is in sporting goods. The PA 12 version of PEBA is extremely lightweight and commonly found in high-end athletic shoes across various sports. Thanks to its water resistance, it’s also extremely popular for use in sports exposed to water or snow, such as in hiking or skiing/snowboarding boots, and as a protective covering for skis and snowboards themselves.
Over the past four decades, PEBA has also found its way into medical devices, fabrics, and cables for electronic devices.
The World’s First PEBA Powder for 3D Printing
The powder, which Evonik calls the world’s first flexible synthetic PEBA material for use in 3D printing, is ideal for making functional 3D parts using methods like laser sintering, high-speed sintering, and binder jetting.
It’s easy to imagine that the new powder used in printing 3D parts in the aforementioned industries PEBA has already rooted itself in. But it’s not so easy to speculate the possibilities the landmark product will open up. For Senior Product Manager for Polymers at EOS Fabian Stoever, these possibilities are immense.
“Flexible polymer materials significantly expand the options for additive manufacturing because they allow us to realize new, demanding applications in attractive markets,” says Stoever.
The multinational EOS has been collaborating with Evonik for years and has already been utilizing the material in its laser sintering systems. And like many other 3D materials, using PEBA allows for more inexpensive production of single items, small batches, and prototypes. It also allows for increased customization based on the end user’s specific needs, part of the reason it’s been so popular in the athletic and medical fields.
PEBA of course isn’t Evonik’s first 3D material—they’ve been at the game awhile and their catalog includes being the world production leader in polyamide 12 (PA 12) powders, one of the older powdered materials used for 3D printing.
Through key partnerships, like with EOS and HP, Evonik looks to continue to expand their reach and show that their PEBA’s usefulness is as flexible as the product itself.
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