Feb 20, 2016 | By Benedict

Industrial designer Eric Strebel has posted an instructional video showing viewers how to make professional quality silicone gaskets. The method uses 3D printed plastic molds, GI-1040 silicone rubber, and a vacuum chamber.

A few months ago, something bad happened to me in my kitchen. My stovetop coffee percolator—a Bialetti Moka Pot—stopped working. At first, I could not understand why: I was using the same amount of water and coffee, and applying the same amount of heat, but no coffee would appear from the spout. After ten minutes of nothingness, a horrible gurgling sound could be heard coming from the metal chamber, then ugly blotches of boiled and spoilt coffee would spit from the mouth of the reservoir. This was not drinkable coffee—What had happened? After a detailed inspection of the device, I discovered the culprit: An aged, crumbling, and now-useless rubber gasket, whose decay was causing air and pressure to escape from the pot.

Gaskets, mechanical seals used to fill space between the surfaces of two separate components, are found in many types of machinery and are generally used to prevent leakages—a job that my gasket was clearly failing to do. Bialetti produces spare gaskets for their coffee pots, so I went to my local kitchenware store and bought a pack of three. But the problems continued: It appeared that my particular coffee pot was an older model, slightly different in size from the current versions. The gaskets were too large, and my coffee pot remained useless. I eventually decided to replace the percolator, but could I have saved the old one with a bit of DIY know-how? Industrial designer and 3D printing expert Eric Strebel’s video tutorial suggests I could have.

Gaskets are often made from rubbery, flexible materials, so that they can be tightly squeezed between two solid components. Silicones, often used as sealants, are therefore perfect candidates for gasket material. Recognizing this fact and wanting to share his knowledge, Strebel demonstrates how to make silicone gaskets from 3D printed molds in a clear, step-by-step tutorial. Although the designer’s method requires a vacuum chamber and a few uncommon materials, it could easily be used to solve problems like my own: No spare gasket for your coffee pot? Just fire up your 3D printer and make one.

To make an accurate plastic mold for a silicone gasket, Strebel first created a 3D model in Autodesk Fusion 360, before 3D printing the design in PLA filament on his Ultimaker 3D printer. The designer then clipped the three layers of the mold together, readying the tool for its principal task. For the gasket itself, Strebel used GI-1040 silicone rubber, de-gassed in a vacuum chamber before and after being poured into a syringe—the syringe being a necessary tool for distributing the substance precisely and evenly into the 3D printed molds. After a night of gentle warming, the 3D printed molds could be peeled away, unveiling the beautifully cast silicone gasket in all its glory.

“The gasket is intentionally cast a little bit smaller than the actual location where the gasket is going to fit, because it stretches like a little rubber band,” Strebel explains at the conclusion of his tutorial. “It sits really nice. My guess for how thick the gasket needed to be was pretty spot-on, so I have a little cap that fits on really nice onto my mockup!”

Strebel’s clever technique allows anyone with the right equipment to create silicone gaskets from a 3D printed PLA mold. The method could even be used to produce other silicone components beside gaskets. Hats off to the designer for walking us through it.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Keeping it real wrote at 2/21/2016 5:39:36 AM:

not really new or ground breaking. from march 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gs8NwTyVLUk DIY Silicone Vibration Dampener, made the same way.

-Tj- wrote at 2/21/2016 4:55:33 AM:

That's pretty nifty. I was actually going to try this a couple months ago, but alas... my printer wasn't working properly. Good to see someone else had the same idea and got success with it. :)

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