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Sabic’s Keith Cox “the next step is the identification of additional industries not using additive now”

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Sabic has been involved in 3D printing for a long time supplying materials such as their Ultem PEI material that is used extensively in aerospace. Lately, the company has also started selling ABS and PC filaments and Polyimide, has a renewed focus on large format 3D printing making materials for Thermwood, Cincinnati and others. With applications such as autoclave tooling and yacht hulls, Sabic seems focused on expanding from its base in aviation into larger industrial applications. We spoke to Sabic’s 3D Printing leader Keith Cox to see what the company has been up to and is planning.

At the moment Sabic is..very focussed on four areas..traditional resin (granulate that they sell to OEMs like Stratasys)…their own filament systems..branching out into other technologies and systems…and large format.” “Large format“…and specifically “large parts…is a strong focus” and “Sabic is working with Cincinnati, CNC Barcenas, Ingersoll, and others..on tackling large format.” The company continues “to develop SLS powders (Laser Powder Bed Fusion) for amorphous parts.” 

A sintering test setup

Polycarbonate and polycarbonate copolymers for sintering are under development..and we’re looking at high impact resistance properties..and transparency..with their Imapace and Xiloxane grades.” “We hope to be able to drop that into a number of SLS platforms.” Polycarbonate for sintering is a super exciting development and it may lead to some completely new applications for the material. Ken hints that the recycling rate could be extremely high which could make it an excellent material to use as well. They’re also looking at “low FST (flame, smoke, toxicity)..properties” as well.

Sabic support materials

Overall the “overarching message is collaboration…and delivering what the customer wants..in each of our focus areas.” In “2017 we released our first filaments” and “we still sell resin” to OEMs and now “we have to select the pathways to market for each resin technology.” Sabic will even “work with BASF to market filament.” Another example of collaboration “is in working with Roboze on filament..to develop Extem..a high-temperature polyimide.” “The benefit of working with Roboze..was not just that they are a pathway to get it to the customer..but” more so that they can help match the filament to “their unique printing capabilities.” Roboze and Stratasys won’t be their only partners however “Sabic is also working with AON3D and Intamsys.” They will “continue to work in that space”, “trying to make our materials available on all the relevant platforms.” We love to do higher temperature materials as print technology because this can deliver high-quality parts.”

An aerospace tooling part for a window section of a plane.

We’re very active in the large format space” and he’s particularly proud of work they did with the National Institue for Aviation Research with Wichita State University where they’re working on materials for aerospace tooling. I first believed Sabic’s focus on autoclave tooling and aerospace tooling generally to be rather quixotic with the firm investing a lot of resources and money with no one following them for years. Given their decades-long experience in aviation however, I believe now that I’ve really underestimated this as an impactful market. Another Sabic focus area is “Precast concrete tools” where they’re working with AES and he thinks here “that the economics are on our side.” Here they’re also working with architects and building design. Again in this area, Sabic was an early leader it is another application with very large parts and thus potential volumes with few companies looking at it.  In large format, we’ve looked at the production process from design to part..with multiple companies and printer technologies.” Sabic is looking at “design requirements, software…and predictable CTE.” 

All in all, Ken feels that “the next step is the identification of additional industries not using additive now.” 

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