Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing allows the simple and individual production of complex 3D structures and components by applying materials layer by layer without the need for special tools or moulds. Together with subtractive manufacturing processes such as milling or turning and formative manufacturing processes such as casting or forging, additive manufacturing processes represent the third pillar of the entire manufacturing technology. 

In 1984, Chuck Hull developed stereolithography, the first additive process for polymer, which was commercialised a few years later. Subsequently, other techniques such as 3D inkjet printing, powder fusion and melt layering were developed, which were initially used for the inexpensive production of prototypes.  

Through continuous improvement of the machines and materials, these methods are increasingly finding their way into industrial production processes for functional polymers components. However, there are still limitations with regard to the production speeds and installation space sizes of these processes as well as the surface quality, biocompatibility and thermo-mechanical properties of the printed plastic objects. 

This also explains the research efforts of the Department of Polymer Engineering in the field of additive manufacturing. Within the framework of numerous cooperative projects, research is being conducted into improved processes and materials as well as characterisation methods that allow new areas of application for additively manufactured polymer components to be opened up.