The 3D printer that will debut at the K tradeshow represents the first printer generation to industrial purposes. The ACEO® Imagine Series K prints considerably faster and is more compact in design. “The printer is based on the ACEO® technology – a drop-on-demand method developed by WACKER,” says Bernd Pachaly, head of WACKER’s silicones research and responsible for the ACEO® team. “It can be used to make parts and assemblies with complex geometries, as well as ‘impossible products,’ which could not previously be produced.”
The term “additive manufacturing,” better known as 3D printing, describes a manufacturing process in which a workpiece is built up in successive layers, without the use of a mold – i.e., it is a mold-free process. This offers designers significantly more latitude than conventional manufacturing methods. Once a product design has been generated by computer-aided design (CAD) or imaging techniques, printing can commence immediately.
“The automotive and aerospace industries are currently the main customer sectors for 3D,” says Pachaly, who started developing a system solution for 3D printing with silicones with his team in 2014. At the moment, additive manufacturing is growing most rapidly in medical applications. Biomodeling and customized geometries are particularly promising. “In these types of applications, silicones can display their favorable properties particularly well,” emphasizes the research head. “Silicones are heat resistant, flexible at low temperatures, transparent and biocompatible. They can furthermore be pigmented in any color and have good damping properties.”
With ACEO® Imagine Series K, prototypes or small series can be produced quickly and efficiently. The new 3D printing process thus offers product designers fascinating possibilities.
ACEO® technology uses a drop-on-demand method. The printer head deposits tiny silicone droplets on a substrate. In this way, the workpiece is built up layer by layer. The silicone is formulated so that the droplets flow together before the curing process begins, which is activated by UV light. The droplets and layers thus produce a homo-geneous workpiece, which does not differ much from injection-molded parts. With the aid of water-soluble support materials, it is also possible to create overhang materials and internal lattices.
ACEO® – New Brand for 3D-Printing Development, Consultation and Services
From August 2016 on, WACKER will be offering services relating to 3D printing with silicone under the ACEO® brand. Customers will be able to upload their own designs in a webshop and order 3D-printed silicone parts. These will be produced in the ACEO® print fab and shipped around the world. Moreover, the interdisciplinary ACEO® team will offer consultation and development services for the design and manufacture of silicone parts or assemblies.
WACKER is currently building its own technology center – the so-called ACEO® campus – near its main site in Burghausen, Germany. In the future, customers will be able to test their own product ideas here in an Open Print Lab.