Wacker launches silicone 3D printing tech in North America at IDTechEx Show

November 21, 2016

WackerMunich-based global materials and technology manufacturer Wacker Chemie has recently debuted their silicone 3D printing technology to the North American market during the ID Tech Ex Show, which just took place from November 16 to 17 in Santa Clara, California in the US.

The specialized 3D printing technology, called the ACEO Imagine Series K, was first announced by the German company last year. It was the company’s first industrial 3D printer for silicones, and it was debuted at K 2016: International Trade Fair for Plastics and Rubber in July 2016.

The silicone 3D printing technology features a print head that deposits single silicone voxels on a building platform usinga unique drop-on-demand technique similar to material jetting. A voxel is a unit of graphic information that defines a point in three-dimensional space, much like a pixel defining a point in two-dimensional space.

These deposited voxels form a smooth and homogenous surface, as each finished layer is cured via UV light.

Wacker’s technology also utilises a support material for complex prints, as well as overhangs and cavities, which can be dissolved away with water after the printing process is completed. The printed part is post-cured at high temperatures to ensure that the exceptional mechanical properties of silicone prevail.

“We decided to develop a contactless technology, which means that we have no connection between the print head and the component during the dosing process of the single droplets,” said Dr. Bernd Pachaly, the head of the R&D department from Wacker Silicones. “This brings significant advantages that allow both high precision and freedom in design.”

As for the mechanical properties of silicone, the high-tech material is best known for its longevity and elasticity. On top of that, silicone is exceptionally temperature-stable and media-resistant, making the highly transparent material ideal for a number of applications. It can also be formulated to be electrically conductive or insulating, while certified silicone grades are biocompatible, giving it high value in the medical field.

Wacker has spent the last two years developing the software, hardware, and materials that make up their silicone 3D printing technology. All of their development has been grouped under the ACEO brand.

On the ACEO website store, customers are able to upload 3D models to be printed in silicone at the Burghausen-based ACEO Open Print Lab and shipped directly to them. The makerspace includes an interdisciplinary team capable of offering contract development for design and material, among other services.

According to Dr. Pachaly, Wacker is only at the beginning of their silicone 3D printing journey, and already has different grades and colors of the material available. From here, they plan to develop more durometers and colors, as well as materials formulated to meet the requirements of biocompatibility.

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