Jun 28, 2016 | By Alec

Even though the K 2016, the world’s premier plastics and rubber trade fair, is still more than 100 days away, we think we already know what the biggest event will be at that expo in October in Düsseldorf. For Munich-based chemical company WACKER has just announced that they will be unveiling their custom silicone 3D printing technology at the event, what would be the world’s first industrial silicone 3D printer.

That’s great news for the entire 3D printing industry, as silicone has been conspicuously absent from the list of 3D printable materials for far too long. A hugely popular material for its fantastic properties, it is sadly only available for injection molding manufacturing right now. That is set to change with the ACEO Imagine Series K, as the 3D printer will be called. Intended for use in the medical, consumer electronics, automotive, aerospace and bio-modeling industries, it has been under development for quite a long time – with the backing of several so far unnamed 3D printing specialists.

As WACKER revealed, they have seen a need for 3D printable silicone solutions for a long time and built what they believe perfectly fits that niche market. Development started back in 2014, headed by Bernd Pachaly, Head of WACKER’s silicones research team. And as he believes, numerous industrial applications could greatly benefit from 3D printed silicone. “In these types of applications, silicones can display their favorable properties particularly well,” he said. “Silicones are heat resistant, flexible at low temperatures, transparent and biocompatible. They can furthermore be pigmented in any color and have good damping properties.”

The 3D printer itself will feature a large 500mm x 500mm build envelope, and will run alongside WACKER’s own software. It is reportedly very fast as well. “The printer is based on the ACEO technology – a drop-on-demand method developed by WACKER,” Pachaly revealed. “It can be used to make parts and assemblies with complex geometries, as well as ‘impossible products,’ which could not previously be produced.”

The drop-on-demand 3D printing technology method is quite unusual. The print head deposits tiny silicone droplets onto a substrate, building parts layer by layer. Crucially, the droplets themselves flow together before being cured by UV light. Homogeneous workpieces are thus produced, which hardly differ from injection molded parts. The support materials are dissolvable in water, making it possible to easily create and remove overhangs and lattices. As the German company revealed, the 3D printer they will be debuting in Dusseldorf in a few months from now will represent the first 3D printer generation that brings silicone to industrial design.

However, if you can’t wait for the ACEO Imagine Series K 3D printer to be unveiled, you can start 3D printing with it from August onwards. Starting in two months from now, the silicone 3D printer will be part of WACKER’s new consultation and 3D printing services, under the ACEO brand. Through it, clients can simply upload designs and order 3D printed silicone components, which will be manufactured in the ACEO print lab and shipped everywhere. But the ACEO team also offers consultation and development services to inexperienced designers.

In fact, 3D printing is high on the WACKER agenda. They are also working on their own ACEO campus technology center, near their headquarters in Burghausen, Germany. There, clients will be able to test their own concepts in the ACEO Open Print Lab. But for your first taste of the ACEO Imagine Series K, you’ll have to go to the K 2016 Trade Fair in October, where the 3D printer will be demonstrating various applications.



Posted in 3D Printer



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