The Dow Chemical Company has officially launched its EVOLV3D Universal Support Material (USM). The 3D printing material, first announced in November 2017, will initially be available commercially through Taulman 3D.
In recent years, American chemical corporation Dow has recognized both the potential of the additive manufacturing industry and its own position, as a leading materials developer, to impact the 3D printing materials market. Its newly launched USM material marks its first 3D printing material offered through its EVOLV3D platform.
EVOLV3D USM is a water-soluble 3D printing support material which boasts near universal compatibility with 3D printing build materials. For users, this means that the material can be used to produce supportive scaffolds and structures to enable greater design flexibility for prints, and does not require laborious post-processing to remove them. Final printed parts can simply be placed in water, agitated a bit, and the USM supports should dissolve easily.
“We began looking at a number of different gaps that we saw in the market,” explained Keith Wilson, market segment manager at Dow. “And one of the things we noticed was that there wasn’t a decent support material that was broadly compatible with other build materials. So we looked into developing a solution that might address that challenge. We were also thinking about the removal process and we wanted to create a material that could be removed safely and that was environmentally friendly. EVOLV3D USM is the result of that effort.”
“We’re really excited about what this material could enable—what new parts can be created from other build materials, what new audiences this opens up,” Wilson continued. “Many schools now have 3D printers in the classroom and I imagine that, in the past, support materials weren’t necessarily used as often because of the removal process. Because you can use our material with water, it enables safer handling, making it classroom friendly.”
In terms of universality, EVOLV3D USM is compatible with a broad range of 3D printing materials, including PLA, Nylon and LSR. Wilson explains that the only materials that have not been tested with the water-soluble support material are high temperature engineering plastics, such as PEEK. “We haven’t had the chance to test those yet,” he says.
As mentioned, EVOLV3D USM was first announced in November 2017 when it was presented at formnext. And though the material itself hasn’t changed since then, the last few months have enabled Dow to further test and validate its new material.
“The announcement has given us the opportunity to validate the key performance points of the material,” Nathan Wilmot, Associate R&D Director at Dow, told us. “Since then, we’ve had individuals from outside of Dow try it and test it, all with very good feedback. That initial launch allowed people to get their hands on the material and put it through a lot of paces.”
As of now, EVOLV3D USM is available for purchase through Taulman 3D, though Wilson specifies that it will eventually be distributed more broadly. “We’ve had a fantastic relationship with Taulman 3D,” he says. “We’re excited to see that continue and we know the company has done a lot of great things, especially in the desktop market.
As an established chemical company, Dow is uniquely situated in that it can leverage its existing materials and expertise to develop new materials specifically for additive manufacturing applications.
“We have a broad range of materials within Dow, many of which have been tailored to meet challenges in different industries, so we see this opportunity in additive manufacturing as very much the same,” Wilson explains. “We can tailor and modify materials that exist in our portfolio, including silicone, and bring unique solutions to the market that hopefully enable new applications and new adoption globally.”
Wilmot elaborates further, saying: “One thing that we understand about 3D printing is that the materials that are used in more traditional manufacturing processes aren’t always going to fit. We’re really trying to design specifically new materials that process exactly as they need to within the additive space. With this mindset we can look at how manufacturing is going to change the world and design the materials that fit into those needs.”
EVOLV3D USM seems like a strong first step for Dow into the additive manufacturing materials sphere. The versatile and user-friendly material marks the first release in its EVOLV3D platform, but it certainly won’t be the last. As the company tells us, it is already exploring various other materials for the AM market. Its support material has already been recognized by the Edison Awards with the bronze prize for the Applied Technology category 2018.