AMS Spring 2023

Interview with Massimo Bricchi of Kuraray on 3D Printing Biodegradable Materials

6K SmarTech

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Massimo Bricchi

Massimo Bricchi is Kuraray Europe‘s Regional Marketing Manager. The company is involved in the production of chemicals and resins, fibers and textiles, high-performance material, and medical products. In this interview, the discussion is focused on the 3D printing of biodegradable materials that Kuraray has been manufacturing.

Take us through your organization and a brief introduction to the service and products you offer?

The Kuraray Group is an expanding, stock exchange-listed specialty Chemicals Company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, with around 8.500 employees and annual sales of over EUR 4 billion. Kuraray Europe GmbH is a wholly-owned subsidiary headquartered in Hattersheim and Main and has around 850 employees. Kuraray is the world’s largest producer of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and an international leader in the development and use of innovative high-performance materials for many industries.
From our PVA resin catalog, our R&D Labs in Frankfurt have developed our family of water-soluble compounds called MOWIFLEX which can be used in various other applications like a sausage casing, injection molding, and frac balls. For 3D Printing, we have 2 specific grades called Mowiflex 3D 1000 and 3D 2000 which are specifically designed for water-soluble support material.

Besides PVA, we sell PVB resin to produce solvent-soluble filaments for FFF. PVB has similar mechanical properties as PLA, is very transparent and can be polished, after printing by spraying it with alcohol that dissolves the surface of the objects, therefore, giving that shiny look.

For the future, we are planning to introduce to 3D printing also other Kuraray products like high-temperature PA(Nylon) and elastomers.

What is the significant aspect of your 3D printing water-soluble materials and how important are they in 3D printing?

The main features that differentiate our material from the competition are:

  • They are 100% soluble in tap water. No need for any additive.
  • Moreover, they are certified by TUV Austria as biodegradable in water
  • Low Moisture uptake. This makes our filaments quite rigid, which is beneficial for better printability

How compatible are your filaments with the 3D printers in the market, are there specific printers to use on?

Our filament can be used on any Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

Do you see 3D printing biodegradable material as another crucial material in 3D printing for the future?

3D printing biodegradable materials will be a crucial material especially if you consider the microplastic issue. The market is also now focused on the pure technical performance of support materials.

Mowiflex water soluble filament

What is your vision with the African 3D printing market? Do you have plans for it?

Kuraray does not have a clear vision yet. We have exhibited at various 3D Printing fairs but hardly got visitors from Africa. We have no idea of the potential market in Africa, for our support material but would be glad to learn more about it.

And lastly, how do you see 3D printing in the future?

We are now in an early phase of the market where you see many players, from very small family companies to large enterprises continuously offering new products and technologies. But we already see that the market is moving from a hobby-like approach to real industrial use of 3D Printing. You can see it also by looking at big companies like BASF or Henkel investing a lot into 3D printing.

We expect a future consolidation of the market where only bigger companies having the capability to develop new and reliable products will survive.

Unpolished and Polished PVB Bottle

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