Wacker will introduce the first industrial 3D printer for silicones at K2016 this October.
The ACEO Imagine Series K uses a drop-on-demand method developed by Wacker, which is one of the top three global suppliers of silicones. The printer head deposits tiny silicone droplets layer by layer. The silicone is formulated so that the droplets flow together before curing, which is activated by UV light.
Wacker says the result is a homogenous part that does not differ much from injection molded parts. With the use of water-soluble support materials, it is possible to create internal lattices and overhanging structures.
The technology will be offered by Wacker as a service starting next month. Customers can upload designs and order 3D-printed silicone parts. Wacker is building an ACEO campus near its main site in Burghausen, Germany. When finished, customers can test products there in an Open Print Lab.
“The automotive and aerospace industries are currently the main customer sectors for 3D,” says Bernd Pachaly, who started developing a system solution for 3D printing with silicones with his team two years ago.
At the moment, additive manufacturing is growing most rapidly in medical applications, according to Wacker. Biomodeling and customized geometries are described by Pachaly as particularly promising. “In these types of applications, silicones can display their favorable properties particularly well. Silicones are heat resistant, flexible at low temperatures, transparent and biocompatible. They can furthermore be pigmented in any color and have good damping properties.”
K2016 will be held in Düsseldorf, Germany Oct. 19-26. Wacker’s plans were outlined at a recent pre-K press conference in Düsseldorf.