Brazilian Chemical Giant Braskem Shuts Down 3D Printing Line Xtellar

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Braskem is a large Brazilian petrochemicals company. The $14 billion revenue firm makes PVC, PP, and polyethylene. In 2023, it bought filament supplier Taulman. Later in 2023, Braskem spun out its 3D printing business into a separate unit called Xtellar. The unit produced PP, EVA, PP filaments, a powder bed fusion material, materials made from bottle caps, and one made from sugarcane. They aimed to develop more PETG, Polyamide, bio-based materials, and recycled polymers to become a leader in sustainable 3D printing materials. This did not occur. Now Braskem has shut down the unit. Some customers received an email:

Subject: Important Information: Xtellar Business
Dear Customer,

We are writing to inform you about a significant decision regarding our Xtellar product line, which includes various grades used for 3D printing applications. After careful consideration, Braskem has decided to discontinue the Xtellar operation and its associated products indefinitely. Please see below for the list of affected 3D Printing filament and pellet grades:

Nylon

-PCTPE

-FL230PA

-Nylon Glass Fiber

-Nylon Carbon Fiber

-Alloy 910 HDT

-Alloy 910

-Bridge Nylon

-Nylon 645

PETG

-PETG

-Enviro PETG

-T-Glase

PP

-Polypropylene

-Polypropylene Support

-Polypropylene Carbon Fiber

-Polypropylene Glass Fiber

PE

-PE

-Recycled PE

-Recycled PE Carbon Fiber

-Bio Based PE

EVA

-Bio Based EVA

PCTG

-PCTG

PLA

-Essential PLA

-Pro PLA

The last effective day of business for receipt of any purchase order related to Xtellar product will be June 21st, 2024. Until that date, we will continue to service your account as normal.We understand that this change might pose an inconvenience, and we are committed to helping you transition smoothly. Your satisfaction is very important to us, and we deeply appreciate the trust you have placed in Xtellar. Should you have any questions or need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us Thank you once again for your understanding and support during this transition.”

If you’re interested you can buy material right now with discounts of up to 70% with orders over $150.

Why Did Braskem Leave?

There is a general apathy towards 3D printing among large materials companies. Many polymer and chemical firms are worried about energy costs, which means their focus is elsewhere. During the 3D printing hype boom, chemical firms were happy to get on the 3D printing bandwagon. They were likely astounded at the prices paid for powder and filament, and the business was growing. Their expectations were probably inflated. Now, with our 10% to 30% annual growth, firms have soured on the prospects of 3D printing. This is strange because no one was really predicting more growth in the industry except for the media. They should have known that the value of the market segments was around $300 million to $1 billion and would rise over time. It’s very puzzling to me how the polymer firms seemed to have gotten the wrong impression. Market research does work. With all the major chemical firms now aloof and uninterested, Braskem seems to have followed the sentiment and thrown in the towel.

What Did Braskem Do Right?

One thing I loved about Braskem’s market entry was the focus on pellets, a market segment that is exploding. There were next to no truly sustainable materials available in this segment. Additionally, there were no real formulations or compounds made specifically for tooling molds or boats, for example. With individual machines outputting 5 kilos an hour, the volume could quickly add up. The company also had quite a broad portfolio, as seen above. Taulman’s Nylon portfolio was well-respected, and they gained market expertise with that acquisition. Spinning out the company into a separate firm was a surefire way to make it more flexible and agile as well.

What Did Braskem Do Wrong?

I never really came across any Xtellar materials. I didn’t know friends who used them, no one recommended them to me, and I didn’t see them in use at shows, in videos, or at factories. It seems their market penetration was simply not deep enough. People sometimes used their tried and trusted Taulman materials, though. I never heard anything bad about Xtellar, but I never heard anything about them either. They seem to have not developed specific aerospace tooling, construction, boat, or other pellet materials. This was a beautiful opportunity to achieve real volume and have something unique.

The company did have some unique offerings, like a bio-based elastomeric product, Bio-Based PE, and a durable copolymer of TPE. Polyamide filament GF use exploded, as did other engineering materials, but they never really caught that wave either. I would have liked to test out some of their more unique materials, but I never remember any buzz or excitement around them. There was also no real marketing push with the pellets or in new areas such as furniture. The company simply did not have the heft or presence in the market to make everyone notice them. It looks like they were never really given the resources to succeed.

What Does Braskem´s Exit Mean for the Industry?

Well, this isn’t exactly going to make people want to throw more money at us. It’s also not good news that they did not find a buyer for the line of filaments and pellets. It would have been nice for a company like Keene Village Plastics, Polymaker, or colorFabb to expand its engineering materials portfolio. No one investing in and buying the portfolio is not a good sign. It would have been super nice to have more purpose-made pellet materials. There is a real need for reduced-warp materials that print with less post-finishing. Since milling takes so long, people will often pay for this kind of thing. I was intrigued by bio-based and more recyclable materials, and there were a few interesting materials there. On the whole, however, the impact will be minimal. Materials firms were in the driving seat for a few years in 3D printing. Now it is the OEMs and the rest of us that have to move the market forward.

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