Earlier this year, SABIC, a global supplier of engineering thermoplastics, announced that it is expanding the company’s application development focus in additive manufacturing technology by leveraging its global technology centers in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Saudi Arabia. SABIC has been involved in several notable projects involving additive technologies including the first-ever fully functional 3D-printed vehicle.
At this year’s RAPID Conference and Exposition held in Long Beach, California, Elizabeth Jordan, Ph.D., Director, Americas Industrial Technology and Innovation for SABIC, along with other industry experts, convened to talk about industry trends and areas where further growth is needed in order for additive manufacturing to reach its full potential.
We caught up with Dr. Jordan to gain from her insight in an exclusive AMazing® Q&A conversation.
AMazing®: Dr. Jordan, thank you for your participation. The conference panel discussion at SME‘s RAPID Conference and Exposition, sponsored by SABIC, was insightful and exciting. During the discussion, you suggested materials will drive the additive manufacturing industry, more so than design, equipment or processes. Would it be fair to suggest the future growth of the additive industry is largely dependent upon the availability of more and better materials? Along those same lines, do you believe the development of new thermoplastic materials will create new processes and/or equipment?
Dr. Jordan: The need for a broader portfolio of printable materials was a recurring theme mentioned by several of the panelists. While the additive manufacturing industry will certainly benefit from materials which are formulated specifically for use in additive processes, the availability of materials alone isn’t sufficient to enable additive manufacturing to reach its full potential as a manufacturing process. To achieve this goal, necessary advances in materials will need to be accompanied by similar advances in design and process technology.
AMazing®: You also mentioned from a materials standpoint, there is a vast distinction between Rapid Prototyping and additive manufacturing for end use products, and even injection molding. What should businesses be aware of before transitioning from Rapid Prototyping to additive technologies for end-use production?
Dr. Jordan: There are obvious differences that often exist with respect to expectations of part performance and durability between prototyping and end use products. Many of these will likely be addressed through the development of new materials. The more challenging and nuanced differences often relate to the inherent need for manufacturing processes to reproduce identical parts in large quantities. The issue of part reproducibility can be a challenge for many additive processes. The current focus on in-process measurement of layer temperatures, cooling rates, and other factors which control the performance and reproducibility of metal parts is evidence of the importance of process control to additive manufacturing processes in general. Analogous insights will be needed for plastics processes to successfully make the transition to manufacturing scale.
AMazing®: How will SABIC expand material offerings to meet the growing needs for more and better thermoplastic material options?
Dr. Jordan: We continue to invest globally in capabilities and equipment to support the development of high performance materials for additive manufacturing processes as well as new, emerging technologies. This includes working with equipment manufacturers and other innovators who share our vision of designing materials specifically for use in additive processes. It also includes leveraging our extensive polymer processing knowledge base to advance new developments in additive process technology.
AMazing®: You mentioned four exciting areas for end use production including materials, design, process equipment and collaboration. How important is collaboration toward developing customer insights into viable solutions?
Dr. Jordan: Collaboration is a critical part of bringing valued solutions to our customers. This is true in any market but it’s especially relevant in additive manufacturing. The real innovation in this space comes at the intersection of materials, equipment, process, and design. No single company, university, laboratory, or individual innovator has sufficient expertise in all of these areas to deliver the ideal solution to customers. As a result, we view collaboration as an integral part of the development process.
AMazing®: We know that by using additive manufacturing, multiple parts maybe consolidated into one part, using a single material. Is SABIC currently involved in any projects involving additively manufactured multifunctional, multiple material (electrical, optics) components or systems in one operation?
Dr. Jordan: When you have a long term view of additive manufacturing as we do at SABIC, you can’t help but be intrigued by the potential of this technology to enable the printing of multi-component, functional objects. The possibilities are seemingly endless and could incorporate a wide variety of technologies from embedded or printed electronics to the use of multiple materials in a single build to provide localized performance such as heat resistance or electrically insulative properties. Combining these options with the ability to create unique designs could radically change the way we think about the production of functional devices in the future.
AMazing®: What new areas in process controls do you find exciting?
Dr. Jordan: As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of interesting process monitoring and process control work going on relative to metals additive processes. The application of sensor technology to monitor and eventually control the formation of the melt offers to provide meaningful insights that will improve porosity, reduce defects and minimize the need for post-production inspection and testing. While this work promises to yield significant improvements in part reproducibility and performance for metals, an analogous effort for plastics processes will be needed to support the transition from prototyping to production. Advancing the current knowledge in this area will be a necessary next step for additive manufacturing with thermoplastics to evolve to the next level.
AMazing®: What RAPID takeaways would you like to share regarding the use of high-performance polymers for additive applications in industries like aerospace, rail, healthcare and automotive?
Dr. Jordan: High performance materials will always be an essential component to innovation across a broad range of industries as they enable applications to achieve new levels of performance. An example of this in additive manufacturing is the success that ULTEM™ 9085 resin has had in the aerospace industry. While the thermal and FST properties of this material make it well suited for aerospace applications, being able to produce parts additively has allowed OEMs to expand its use into low volume production applications in a cost effective manner. The recent introduction of Stratasys FDM® filament made from ULTEM™ 1010 resin promises to offer similar benefits to customers in a wide range of industries. While these are just two examples of how high performance polymers are being used in additive manufacturing, we expect this trend will not only continue but will accelerate significantly in the years to come.
This concludes our interview. Thank you very much Dr. Jordan for your participation. We are very grateful for the opportunity to gain from your insight and hear about SABIC’s ongoing commitment to additive manufacturing technology.
About Elizabeth Jordan:
Elizabeth is Director, Americas Industrial Technology & Innovation for SABIC, which is ranked as the world’s second largest diversified chemicals company. She joined SABIC, then known as General Electric Plastics, in 1996 as an analytical chemist in Technology. She held roles of increasing responsibility in the Analytical Technology group, including global manager for Analytical Technology in 2002. She has also served as global technology manager for LEXAN™ copolymer resins.
Prior to joining SABIC, Elizabeth worked for ARCO Oil & Gas Co. as a research geochemist and with W. L. Gore & Associates as an analytical chemist.
Elizabeth graduated from Mississippi University for Women with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and chemistry. She earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Louisiana State University.
Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) ranks as the world’s second largest diversified chemical company. The company is among the world’s market leaders in the production of polyethylene, polypropylene and other advanced thermoplastics, glycols, methanol and fertilizers.
SABIC recorded a net profit of SR 23.3 billion (US$ 6.2 billion) in 2014. Sales revenues for 2014 totalled SR 188.1 billion (US$ 50.2 billion). Total assets stood at SR 340 billion (US$ 90.7 billion) at the end of 2014.
SABIC’s businesses are grouped into Chemicals, Polymers, Fertilizers, Metals and Innovative Plastics. It has significant research resources with innovation hubs in five key geographies – USA, Europe, Middle East, South East Asia and North East Asia. The company operates in more than 50 countries across the world with around 40,000 employees worldwide.
SABIC manufactures on a global scale in Saudi Arabia, the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Headquartered in Riyadh, SABIC was founded in 1976 when the Saudi Arabian Government decided to use the hydrocarbon gases associated with its oil production as the principal feedstock for production of chemicals, polymers and fertilizers. The Saudi Arabian Government owns 70 percent of SABIC shares with the remaining 30 percent held by private investors in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
About Innovative Plastics
SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business is a leading, global supplier of engineering thermoplastics with an 80-year history of breakthrough solutions that solve its customers’ most pressing challenges. Today, Innovative Plastics is a multi-billion-dollar company with operations in more than 35 countries and approximately 9,000 employees worldwide. The company continues to lead the plastics industry with customer collaboration and continued investments in new polymer technologies, global application development, process technologies, and environmentally responsible solutions that serve diverse markets such as Healthcare, Transportation, Automotive, Electrical, Lighting and Consumer Electronics. The company’s extensive product portfolio includes thermoplastic resins, coatings, specialty compounds, film, and sheet. Innovative Plastics (www.sabic-ip.com) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).
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