Styrenics are set to play a pivotal role in one of the hottest trends in decades—3D printing—according to German manufacturer of styrene polymers Styrolution. The announcement has been made following news that the company has partnered with Neue Materialien Bayreuth and the University of Bayreuth. Together the partners will develop materials for 3D printing as a strategic project.
IT analyst firm Gartner predicts that “worldwide shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow 75 percent in 2014 followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015. The consumer market hype has made organisations aware of the fact that 3D printing is a real, viable and cost-effective means to reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing.” Styrolution is already a key material supplier for a portion of the market’s plastic ink used in 3D printing.
Styrolution recently hosted a panel discussion about the future of plastics and the role of styrenics. Lightweight materials and 3D printing were key trends panelists addressed in the discussion. A video summary is above.
The partnership with Neue Materialien Bayreuth and the University of Bayreuth will enable Styrolution to complement its existing R&D efforts by tapping into the broad intellectual and infrastructural polymer research resources of its new partners. This goes beyond traditional models of corporate cooperation with academia in that NMB and the university are making their infrastructure easily accessible to Styrolution. The partnership enables the company to focus its R&D activities on downstream customer innovations across five core industries: automotive, electrical and electronics, household appliances, building and construction, and healthcare and diagnostics. The initial projects will focus on the fields of lightweight structures and 3D printing.
The key points of the partnership are as follows.
A unique R&D model for the plastics industry: Going well beyond sponsoring a graduate-level research project, the partnership offers Styrolution a dedicated research team, including a managing scientist and access to other highly qualified research personnel through NMB. The managing scientist’s role will be to constantly evaluate new technologies for use in the field of styrenics. Styrolution expects this permanent seed creation process to steadily grow the innovation pipeline in both size and value. Through its close cooperation with the Department of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Bayreuth, Styrolution will also profit from the expertise of world-renowned experts like, Professor Hans-Werner Schmidt, who has profound expertise across many areas of basic and applied polymer science. In addition, the company will enjoy direct access to both NMB’s and the university’s laboratory facilities and technical infrastructure, where Styrolution can conduct material and processing analyses as it further develops new styrenic products for customer applications. The location will also play a key role since the Upper Franconia region in Germany is known throughout Europe as a hotbed for polymer innovation and is home to a host of companies specializing in polymer production and compounding.
Customer-centric innovation is at the center of Styrolution’s market approach: True to its claim—Driving Success, Together—Styrolution takes pride in working shoulder-to-shoulder with customers to help them achieve their business objectives. This also applies to the field of innovation, where Styrolution offers services ranging from development support all the way up to co-creation projects to solve polymer challenges for specific customer applications. Styrolution will also leverage the partnership to pursue frontline development projects that will expand the scope of Styrolution’s technologies.
Addressing the latest trends in material innovation: Styrolution will focus its R&D resources in Bayreuth on the next generation of material development to ensure it continues to remain at the forefront of innovation.
Lightweight structures: Manufacturers from industries ranging from automotive to building and construction turn increasingly to styrenics for lightweight alternatives to other materials, such as metal or heavier plastics. Through the partnership, Styrolution will put greater emphasis on optimising and developing new styrenics-based lightweight structures that will promote further carbon footprint reduction and fulfill the sustainability requirements of its customers. Styrolution will benefit from expertise in polymer foams, polymer composites and sandwich materials held by the polymer division at NMB and the university’s Department of Polymer Engineering, both of which are headed by a world-renowned scientist in the field of applied polymer science, Professor Volker Altstädt.