The European Patent Office Board of Appeals in Germany has overturned a 3D Systems held patent protecting the composition of UV curable resins.
Titled, “UV Curable Compositions”, the disputed patent outlines the constituent components required to create UV curable photo-polymers used in a number of applications including 3D printing.
According to the language filed in patent EP1232198: “The present invention relates to UV-curable compositions, the process for preparing the compositions and to the use of the curable compositions. The compositions contain:
a) at least one oxetane compound;
b) at least one polyfunctional cycloaliphatic epoxy compound;
c) at least one multifunctional hydroxy compound; and
d) at least one curing agent.”
The appeal, which is effective across Europe, was filed by Royal DSM, a global Life Sciences and Material Sciences Company based in the Netherlands. Currently, the Dutch firm has a full range of SLA liquid UV curable resins that can be employed to build functional models, investment casting and injection molding. Given the highly accurate surfaces that can be printed using UV curable resins, DSM’s line of material can also be used for wind tunnel model simulations.
While the immediate take away from this development is that Royal DSM will be able to begin marketing their materials across Europe, one has to wonder if this new legal wrinkle will spur further development of application specific materials using UV curable resins.
With the value of the 3D printing materials market projected to soar in the coming years, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that more companies are focused on developing new material products. However, I’m skeptical that firms will jump headlong into the plastic-based materials market.
With DMLS gaining more traction across many industries it appears that more value can be mined from metal-based 3D printing materials, which are beginning to produce end-use parts. That being said, I’m sure plastics will always have a place in 3D printing, particularly when it comes to rapid prototyping.