Research focus areas – Examples

  • Increased use of digital technologies
  • Expansion of business activities in 3D printing

Our focus areas in research are derived from the three major areas in which chemistry-based innovations will play a key role in the future: resources, environment and climate; food and nutrition; and quality of life.

In 2017, BASF researchers from the Process Research & Chemical Engineering technology platform demonstrated the enormous potential of digitalization in research. For the first time, researchers were able to systematically analyze the existing data on catalysts used in the production of the intermediate product ethylene oxide, leading to valuable insights. The correlations between the formulations and the application properties of the catalysts allow their performance and lifetime to be predicted more accurately and faster.

A further example is the data-based optimization for the production of dirt-resistant, water-based coatings used in the furniture industry, for instance. Using electronic data from previous experiments, researchers from the Advanced Materials & Systems Research technology platform were able to quickly determine a successful formulation. Through the combination of laboratory work and virtual experiments, they were able to create new coatings that meet customer demands in a very short time.

We also use data mining methods to gain new insights from very large quantities of existing data. In biotechnology, for example, data mining helps to identify promising enzymes or suitable bacteria more quickly as part of product or process development. This work comes under our Bioscience Research technology platform.

3D printing involves the development of innovative materials. In the chemical industry, BASF already has a broad portfolio with materials, system solutions, components and services. In 2017, BASF New Business GmbH established BASF 3D Printing Solutions GmbH in Heidelberg, Germany, to continue the targeted expansion of the business. As a wholly owned subsidiary of BASF, it works closely together with researchers and application engineers from BASF as well as external partners, such as universities and customers.

In addition, BASF New Business GmbH acquired the filament producer Innofil3D B.V. headquartered in Emmen, Netherlands, in 2017. We can now provide both plastic granulates and filaments for 3D printing. These long, thin plastic fibers are used in fused filament fabrication, a special 3D printing process that manufactures items layer by layer from meltable plastic.

Our competence in the area of material development for 3D processes is demonstrated by the filament Ultrafuse 316LX. It was specially developed for a new process on the market for metal printing and has been in use since 2017. The product makes it easier to print 3D metal parts inexpensively and reliably.