Shapeways, Henkel and EnvisionTEC have put out a video demonstrating the possibilities of a such a three-way partnership. While Shapeways is an expert at providing 3D printing services for its customers, Henkel is a leader in polymer production and EnvisionTEC is the inventor of digital light processing (DLP) technologies for 3D printing. The cross-promotional video represents the materialization of an interesting nexus point for all three companies.
At Formnext 2019, Henkel announced a slew of partnerships. With its new Open Materials Platform, the German chemical company had teamed with a variety of startups and established manufacturers to develop technology-specific polymers for 3D printing. Among those deals was a partnership with Shapeways that allows customers to order demo parts made with Henkel’s Loctite line of UV-curable resins.
These various announcements come after a steady pace of additive manufacturing (AM) development on the part of Henkel, which first announced a 3D printing division in 2016 and then increased its activities in the space regularly after that point. These activities included the opening of an AM-specific manufacturing facility in Ireland, partnerships with HP and Carbon, and the acquisition of Molecule Corp. All of this has established the company as a key player in AM.
At the same time, EnvisionTEC has been working to protect its space in the AM industry, which was challenged by the entry of Carbon in 2014. After Carbon unveiled its continuous DLP technology, competitors like 3D Systems, Carima and EnvisionTEC stepped up to demonstrate that they too had the chops for continuous DLP. While 3D Systems is releasing its Figure 4 system as a modular platform geared toward different industries, Carima and EnvisionTEC are putting out their takes on continuous DLP one machine at a time. In the case of EnvisionTEC, this family includes the latest Envision One series.
The Envision One cDLM is capable of printing up to 45 mm/hour. According to Henkel, the system can handle most of its materials and EnvisionTEC is leveraging its Open Materials Program to work with specific materials companies to certify the use of their products on EnvisionTEC systems.
The video describes how Shapeways purchased five Envision One units to expand its industrial DLP capacity, which previously consisted of a fleet of Perfactory machines that 3D print 350 to 400 tabletop gaming pieces per day. Henkel, meanwhile, uses Envision One machines to test and validate its resins.
Likely impacted by the consumer 3D printing bubble of 2014, Shapeways is in the process of redefining itself after a CEO shakeup that began in 2017 and completed in 2018. In other words, all three companies are in flux in the industry. Henkel is establishing itself as a leader in materials by partnering with makers of new technologies. EnvisionTEC is battling the newcomers into the space. Altogether, it’s possible that this partnership and others currently in the works will serve to strengthen all parties involved as the technology is industrialized and large players disrupt the sector.
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