Recent investments by materials firm Lubrizol Corp. are advancing the firm in 3D printing and reinforcing its leadership position in protective films.
In early August, Wickliffe, Ohio-based Lubrizol, a leading global supplier of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and other specialty materials, acquired 3D printer Avid Product Development LLC for an undisclosed price.
"We want to create value with disruptive technology," 3D Printing Solutions General Manager Gert-Jan Nijhuis said in a recent interview with Plastics News.
3D printing is "a bit of a different industry with unique skill sets," he added. "We want to develop the right materials, processes and technology for that industry."
When the deal was announced, Lubrizol officials said that Loveland, Colo.-based Avid "offers a unique blend" of 3D printing capabilities, including design for additive manufacturing and prototyping. Avid also offers production using powder bed fusion, fused filament fabrication and stereolithography, with expertise in various post-processing technologies.
Nijhuis said that Lubrizol looked at more than 100 companies before deciding to acquire Avid. "We wanted to make a move, because things in [3D printing] can happen quickly," he said. "And it takes time to develop materials."
Avid serves customers in the footwear, consumer goods, industrial and medical markets. The firm won the 2019 Colorado Company to Watch award. Recently, Avid has designed and printed personal protection equipment (PPE) needed by health care workers and essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Later in August, Lubrizol announced that it had invested in its TPU business to support growth in the surface protection and paint protection film markets. Officials said at the time that the investments extend the company's capabilities in those markets, providing additional benefit to manufacturers, brand owners and their supply chains.
"In the last five years, we've seen increased demand for these products and higher quality requirements," Global Industrial Marketing Director Viviana Wilson said in a video interview. "There's more awareness of these materials."
"For the growth that we're seeing, we need different solutions and value-added materials," she added.
Paint protection films are used to maintain vehicle surfaces. Officials said that with more than 30 years of proven experience, Lubrizol's Estane-brand TPU "is recognized as the benchmark material" for performance in PPF.
Lubrizol also has expanded its consumer and market insights platform in a move that officials said will allow the firm "to stay ahead of the evolving needs in PPF and other surface protection end uses."
Recent TPU investments made by Lubrizol include a capacity expansion through manufacturing and processing technology at its plant in Montmelo, Spain. The firm also expanded application resources and testing capabilities at technical centers in Montmelo; Brecksville, Ohio; and Songjiang, China.
"We can make broad technological advancements and expand to meet the needs of the market," Wilson said. She added that the expansions can provide "security of supply" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.