Individually shaped objects can be created in layers from various materials, for example plastic, metal and ceramics. The manufacturing industry has been using this process, also known as additive manufacturing, for several years to rapidly and cost-effectively produce models and samples. However, over the last few years, 3D printing technology has steadily progressed and has opened up entirely new design options. As a result, numerous firms have begun to realize its potential as a manufacturing asset, and thus have started utilizing it for more than just prototype creation.
Even the top adhesive and chemical companies such as BASF and Henkel Adhesive Technologies are focusing on ways they can implement 3D printing, and the wide array of applications that it both supports and promotes. This recent transition of focus by major corporations serves as irrefutable evidence that the market in this area is real, prominent and, most importantly, laden with potential growth in the near future.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- New or improved products, processes, or software
- Technological in nature
- Elimination of uncertainty
- Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
In 2017, BASF established a new Group company called BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH. This fully-owned subsidiary of BASF New Business GmbH focuses on expanding the business with materials, system solutions, components and services in the field of 3D printing.
The ultimate objective of BASF is to aid in the continued development of additive manufacturing beyond prototyping, as well as to identify reference applications and their implementation in innovative industrial end uses. BASF is developing materials suitable for the industrial manufacture of functional 3D parts, and together with their customers and technology partners, they strive to develop additive manufacturing on a completely new economic scale, especially in the areas of printer construction and software development. All of these projects were undertaken with the overarching goal of opening up industrial applications for 3D printing.
BASF 3D Printing Solutions is being expanded specifically to achieve these ambitious goals. The new structure supports consistent focus on target industries and manufacturing technologies. Drawing on the immense innovation power of the chemical industry, BASF has been continuously working to cultivate 3D printing solutions to meet their clients’ broadening industrial needs.
Henkel has been a leading supplier of light-cured acrylic, epoxy, and polyurethane resins for applications ranging from medical and electronic devices to automotive assembly for over 140 years. Starting in 2016, they have taken strides to focus more of their resources on the development of 3D printing materials – in particular, resins for SLA/DLP 3D printing.
However, the world of 3D printing is not completely uncharted territory for Henkel. One way Henkel demonstrates its 3D printing expertise is through a partnership with DUS Architects. This partnership with the Dutch design and architecture start-up has resulted in the production of a 3D printed tiny house, the partially 3D printed Europe Building, and additional projects. Henkel’s hotmelt adhesives were instrumental in the creation of the sustainable bio-plastic material used to 3D print the structures. The recyclable material was created from Henkel adhesives, which are based on sustainable raw materials, then injected with concrete for structural stability.
Henkel’s hotmelt adhesives have already been used in the 3D printing of functional applications such as furniture and elements for buildings. Henkel is focusing development in this area on providing novel filament and powder materials for use in SLS and FDM printers.
The realm of 3D printing continues to expand its already-extensive list of applications into an even wider array of industries. The fact that the world’s leading adhesive companies are directly and actively moving into the 3D printing arena is proof of this very fact, and shows that the 3D printing industry is already very strong. These recent advancements will provide significant enhancements to the manufacturing industry as more companies realize the possibilities that 3D printing opens up, and as both the adhesive manufacturers and the 3D printing industry continue to learn and mutually benefit from each other.
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Charles Goulding & Tyler Gianchetta of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing in the adhesives industry.