German company ACEO – a division of Wacker – has developed a technology to 3D print multiple silicon materials at the same time and will display it at the upcoming formnext show in Frankfurt. Silicon is an amazing material for its flexibility and mechanical properties in general. It is also one of the “Eldorados” of 3D printing since there are thousands of possible applications for it. However, being a highly viscous thermoset plastic that can only be extruded pneumatically implies very low resolutions and limited geometric freedom. All that may now be in the past as the German company has come up with a specific soluble support material which makes it possible to create very intricate and complex structures entirely in silicone, even with more than one color or type of material.
“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. The result [is] even more freedom of design in the construction of objects with multiple materials 3D printed in a single process, in particular soft and hard segments”
ACEO’s technology is a considered a “drop on demand” (a type of inkjet) system solution for 3D printing silicones which includes material, printer and software. The 3D printer deposits silicon voxels on the build platform, which flow together forming a homogeneous surface. The different components are optimally attuned to one another so that the highly viscous silicone can be manufactured additively. Prototypes, individual geometries, integration of functionalities or impossible designs which could not have been produced with any other technology are now available 3D printed with 100% silicone.
Silicone chemists from Wacker developed ACEO Silicones to match the specific needs of the 3D printing process enabling prototypes, small series or individualized and customized silicone products. The standard grade is available in different Shore hardness and colors. Part of the product portfolio is an environmentally friendly ACEO Support Material which allows to 3D print undercuts or overhangs and which can be washed out easily afterwards.
The ACEO Imagine printers work with an UV-curing system where single droplets are dosed on demand and cured layer by layer. This results in excellent mechanical properties of the printed part and outstanding isotropy achieving nearly the same values as parts from injection molding. After printing, the parts can be taken out of the printer immediately as they are fully cured and no further post-processing is needed.