Oct 24, 2017 | By Benedict

ACEO, a brand of German chemical company Wacker Chemie AG, has developed a 3D printing process for multi-material silicone printing. The silicone additive manufacturing technology will be demonstrated at the upcoming formnext 3D printing event in Frankfurt, Germany.

After releasing an industrial silicone 3D printer last year, German 3D printing specialist ACEO was left at a crossroads: it could refine its silicone 3D printer, move into other material territories, or do something else entirely.

We now know what ACEO has been up to since the launch of that groundbreaking machine, and it surely won’t disappoint anyone in the silicone 3D printing game.

At the upcoming formnext powered by tct event in Frankfurt, ACEO will unveil its latest technology: multi-material silicone 3D printing. Described as a “unique process” and a “milestone in 3D printing with silicones,” the technology is purportedly ideal for functional prototypes, biomodels, and small product series.

The multi-material 3D printing process will purportedly allow industrial users to create much more complex parts with a range of properties across different areas of the part.

“This latest development is yet another milestone in ACEO’s history,” commented Dr. Bernd Pachaly, Head of Project 3D Printing at ACEO. “Silicones of different colors, hardness, or even chemical or physical properties can now be placed independent from each other at any given point throughout the process, which allows sharp as well as merging gradients.”

Wacker Chemie brand ACEO launched its first silicone 3D printing technology in 2016, alongside some 3D printable elastomers that offered temperature and radiation resistance as well as biocompatibility. These special 3D printable silicones were designed to be processed on the original ACEO Imagine Series K 3D printer.

The Series K printer works by depositing single silicone voxels on a building platform, which flow together smoothly and form a homogeneous surface. Once a printed layer is finished, UV light cures the silicone material, after which the process repeats for the next layer. ACEO calls it a “drop-on-demand” process.

The Series K 3D printer is also able to simultaneously print water-soluble support materials for creating complex structures, but the forthcoming multi-material 3D printing technology will presumably allow both support material plus several other structural materials to be printed at once.

The silicone additive manufacturing process also involves a post-curing stage, during which an elevated temperature is used to produce the required mechanical properties.

ACEO runs a 3D printing service through which customers can order silicone parts by sending the company their 3D model files. At present, the Series K 3D printer is not commercially available to purchase.

But ACEO does more than just send off models like Shapeways. In July 2017, the German 3D printing company opened its Open Print Lab in the German town of Burghausen, to offer tailor-made 3D printing programs for customers. The Lab offers customers advanced training sessions on the subject of silicone printing.

Now, with its multi-material silicone 3D printing technology ready to go, ACEO can offer its customers new options in silicone product production.

In Pachaly’s own words, the introduction of multi-material silicone 3D printing will ultimately lead to “even more freedom of design in the construction of objects with multiple materials 3D printed in one single process—in particular soft and hard segments.”

Curious about silicone 3D printing? Look out for ACEO at formnext, November 14-17.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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