Breakthrough in digital printing of coatings and adhesives

26 November 2015

As manufacturers strive to update their businesses for Industry 4.0 and meet customer demands for mass customisation of products, they face the complex task of converting large scale, often manual, production processes into automated digital systems. Now Covestro, a leading player in industrial coatings and adhesives raw materials, and TTP, a technology company with expertise in digital printing, have announced a development milestone in digital coating and adhesive technology that has the potential to enable this transition – the successful digital printing of polyurethane adhesives.

The partnership of TTP’s new and revolutionary technology for the rapid digital application of coatings and adhesives, with Covestro’s tailored polyurethane raw materials has demonstrated a new opportunity for digital printing in next generation manufacturing. "We recently successfully tested adhesives formulated with Covestro raw materials,” said Dr Andrew Baker-Campbell, Project Leader at TTP, "demonstrating a capability to print materials far more challenging than typical inks for inkjet printing.”

To exploit the development, Covestro has established its own laboratory for digital printing. "This variant of inkjet printing could become an entirely new production method within the context of Industry 4.0,” says Dr Jörg Tillack, who heads 2D printing development at Covestro’s Coatings, Adhesives, Specialties Business Unit. "The positive test result takes us an important step forward.”

Market opportunity
The €5bn industrial inkjet industry now has the opportunity to penetrate the industrial coatings and adhesives market valued at more than €100bn.

To understand the opportunity for digital technology, Covestro carried out a survey of more than 100 respondents in the coatings and adhesives industry. The majority of the respondents to Covestro’s survey – 93% – believe that digital printing will create additional value for their business and 50% of machinery providers surveyed have customers asking for digital printing solutions today.

From its long-term experience, Covestro well understands the practical challenges facing any industrial coating or adhesive technology. The demands far exceed decoration: Durability and resistance to a number of environmental factors, as well as adhesion and bond strength are all added challenges to overcome.This often results in fluids with properties incompatible with industrial inkjet, such as high viscosity or large particulates.

That is why the vast majority of coatings and adhesives are still using low-tech application technologies, such as spraying or even brushing. Covestro and the British technology development consultancy The Technology Partnership (TTP) are collaborating on material systems and digital printing technologies to address these challenges and unlock this opportunity.

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