German chemical group WACKER has announced its plans to open a new U.S.-based 3D printing lab dedicated to silicone rubber printing. The new facility, which is set to open later this year, will be located at WACKER’s R&D center for silicones in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Its opening will mark a significant expansion for the company’s ACEO 3D printing services.
Notably, the new silicone 3D printing facility in Ann Arbor will be WACKER’s first regional 3D printing lab outside of Germany and it will seek to meet growing demand for additive manufacturing solutions (and specifically its ACEO 3D printing) in North America. The company adds that it has designated a “single digit million USD amount” to invest in the facility.
When it opens, WACKER’s new silicone rubber 3D printing lab will be equipped with two 3D printers built to process a number of silicone rubber materials (with varying Shore A hardnesses and colours), as well as media resistant RVMQ grades of the material. The lab will leverage WACKER’s ACEO additive manufacturing technology which itself was developed for printing silicone elastomers.
ACEO, a division of WACKER, first introduced its platform for 3D printing silicone parts in 2017. One of the leading companies in the silicone AM subcategory, ACEO’s technology allows for the production of complex silicone parts for serial manufacturing and cost-effective production. What has set ACEO’s platform apart from others trying to adapt silicone for 3D printing (a challenging feat!) has been its ability to produce high resolution parts.
The new facility in Ann Arbor will enable WACKER to further expand its ACEO silicone rubber printing technology around the globe. As Bernd Pachaly, head of the ACEO initiative at WACKER, said: “In general, North America is the largest and most dynamic market for 3D printing. With our new lab, prospective partners will obtain local access to the compelling possibilities of 3D printing with liquid silicone rubber.”
The existing ACEO production facility in Burghausen, Germany will continue its operations and focus on delivering 3D printed silicone parts. The new lab, for its part, will provide technical services and consulting to partners and clients across North America. The goal with the new facility is to educate clients and the North American about its ACEO technology and provide a “hands-on” experience with it.
After opening the facility, Pachaly says WACKER will focus on projects across a range of industries, including medical and healthcare, transportation, aerospace and electronics—all of which already rely on silicone-based products. “Establishing a regional lab will support expansion of ACEO’s footprint in the U.S. and further WACKER’s global service network for silicone rubber 3D printing solutions.”
Iam Moore, Vice President of WACKER SILICONES, further emphasizes the strategic decision behind opening a Michigan-based facility: “Our Innovation Center is focused on developing advanced and forward-looking solutions that support regional trends which can be quickly brought to market. Our team of scientists and highly specialized experts in the field of silicones and 3D printing will be able to offer our business partners valuable technical cooperation and services.”