AMS Spring 2023

ChemChina’s KraussMaffei Launches Two Industrial Polymer 3D Printers

6K SmarTech

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Now that chemical giants like BASF have firmly established themselves in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry, injection molding original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are finally getting the message. While Germany’s Arburg has been at work in 3D printing for some time, competitor KraussMaffei has now introduced two industrial polymer 3D printers at the K Show.

KraussMaffei’s Extrusion and Photopolymerization 3D Printers

At the event, KraussMaffei unveiled its powerPrint and precisionPrint machines, extrusion and vat photopolymerization systems respectively. The powderPrint is designed for large-format 3D printing up to 10 m³ using thermoplastic pellets as feedstock. The system offers fast deposition rates and can process fiber-reinforced compounds.

Rolf Mack, Head of Additive Manufacturing for KraussMaffei, said of the extrusion machine: “The advantage for customers is two-fold: optimum component properties are achieved at favorable material costs; and short setup times and the use of common software solutions for print preparation also enable rapid implementation from component design to printing. In developing this, our goal was optimal application-specific processing of thermoplastic materials to ensure production according to industrial standards.”

The precisionPrint is a stereolithography machine meant for industrial-scale automated production of personalized products and small batches. Mack said of the system:

 “Production with almost no material loss and great design possibilities – we bring these additive manufacturing advantages from prototyping to industrial series production of plastic components. Together with our customers, we rethink plant concepts and find efficient additive manufacturing solutions for a wide range of application areas.”

KraussMaffei and Its Owner ChemChina

By adding an AM division, KraussMaffei has a further method for targeting plastic processors and users alongside its extrusion, injection molding, and reaction process businesses. Though it is a comparatively small company, with just 4,700 employees, KraussMaffei is legacy firm with roots dating back to the early 19th century. It previously manufactured locomotives and tanks, before those assets were bought and then sold to Siemens AG.

Since 2016, KraussMaffei has been majority owned by ChemChina, possibly the world’s largest chemical company with revenues of $42-billion. Until sanctions disrupted some business operations, the Chinese state-owned conglomerate was generating $2.4 billion from U.S. subsidiaries and BlackRock owned 20 percent of its China National Bluestar Group.

Germany, China, and Injection Molding

Information about the firm is difficult to find, but it wouldn’t be surprising if KraussMaffei wasn’t ChemChina’s first foray into 3D printing the same way that BASF, formerly the world’s largest chemical company, has many activities in the AM sector. Also interesting is the increasingly close relationship between Chinese and German 3D printing-related companies. We’ve noted several lately, including partnerships between Creality and BASF and Levhoss, as well as Eplus3D opening a German office, and a distribution agreement between Linde and Xi’an Bright Laser Tech.

At the same time, we can look at this news as a development for the injection molding sector. The natural synergy between AM and injection molding is beginning to be felt, particularly by the latter. While Arburg now has a variety of 3D printers on offer, it will face increased competition from the likes of KraussMaffei.

KraussMaffei CEO Dr. Michael Ruf said of the new products, “KraussMaffei is opening up additive manufacturing technology for industrial production. Using our expertise gleaned from series production of plastic parts, we are designing efficient system concepts and appropriate solutions for every component, regardless of the technology. For us, this is about taking our capacity for productivity, quality and efficiency in industrial plastics processing and applying it to additive manufacturing solutions.”

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