Materials manufacturer Covestro from Leverkusen has developed an additive manufacturing process for shock absorbers based on a combination of different manufacturing processes and materials . Although it is currently still a demonstrator, the manufacturer evaluates the result as indicating the possibility of series production.
The 40 x 7 cm shock absorber consists of three different individual components. Covestro manufactures the elastic and abrasion-resistant polyurethane (TPU) outer spring using the SLS process (selective laser sintering). In contrast, the inner set screw must be strong and hard: here the manufacturer uses fused filament fabrication (FFF) to process a robust polycarbonate. Liquid polyurethane resin is finally used in the DLP process (digital light processing) to build up particularly delicate structures, such as those required for the pressure of the air chamber inside the shock absorber.
The result shows that a combination of different production technologies can enable the additive manufacturing of even complex elements with different requirements on the material properties. Researchers and industry are also working on a multi-material 3D printing process that combines several basic materials to print an object in a single operation . This would eliminate additional work steps when assembling or gluing individual components.