Additive Manufacturing adds silicone to the list …..
Until now “rubber like” thermoplastic elastomer materials was the only option when it came to manufacturing a elastomer part. “Elastomer like” materials do not represent the elastomer properties closely enough and hence a large number of industries have been searching for ways to 3D print actual elastomer material.
Primary challenge with printing elastomers is that they are thermoset materials and their typical cure chemistry requires higher temperatures. Silicone material however offer many advantages such as lower viscosity and ability to cure using a UV light. UV cured silicone materials have already been used in the Automotive, Medical and other industries successfully.
Deposition of the elastomer material in a way that allows the previously deposited material to blend with each other ensures that the 3D printed component has desired density and strength. Arburg, a thermoplastic and elastomer injection molding machine manufacturer introduced Freefromer that utilizes precision droplet deposition technology a few years ago which has been revolutionizing the additive manufacturing options for elastomer materials.
Wacker, one of the largest manufacturer of Silicone elastomer material has developed technology that allows for a part to be built layer by layer.
The ACEO technology utilizes Drop-On-Demand approach which delivers precise drops of silicone material which flow into each other, building a continuous layer, layer is then cured with a UV light.
Wacker’s initial product portfolio offers a variety of durometer hardness of silicones ranging from Shore A 10 to Shore A 80. Additionally, different colors including black and translucent grades are available.
Temperature stability, bio-compatibility, electrical strength, ability to be colored and many more have made silicone elastomers very popular in a wide variety of applications. Today silicone elastomers are widely used in Automotive, Medical, Consumer, Industrial, and many other applications.
Wacker continues to expand the capabilities of the ACEO technology over the next few years.
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