Features - Wacker Chemie AG


Features

Printing with Silicones - Building 3D Objects Layer by Layer

Sep 09, 2015

3D printing is a technology with a great future. It is used by companies, product developers and designers to manufacture spare parts, prototypes and much more. But the range of materials is limited. So far, it has only been possible to print plastics and metals. But now, WACKER, the Munich-based chemical group, has developed a method that also allows silicone articles to be produced by 3D printing. A robot deposits tiny droplets from a nozzle side by side, to build up the article layer by layer. Then the silicone is vulcanized with UV light. The homogeneous objects that are produced have virtually smooth surfaces. The material is biocompatible, heat resistant and transparent – opening up new industrial applications in automotive manufacturing, medical technology, household appliances, and optics. Experts are predicting a huge market for 3D printing with silicones.

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Wacker Chemie AG
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Florian Degenhart

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  • 3D_Silicones_Printer

    3D_Silicones_Printer

    The new 3D process of Munich-based WACKER operates with extreme precision. The printer robot produces structures with a line width of 0.6 millimeters. The silicone is placed drop by drop, and is immediately firm after application. That enables extremely precise contours to be produced.

  • Fig. 01: 3D_Silicones_Printing

    Fig. 01: 3D_Silicones_Printing

    Current 3D printing technologies use glass, metal, plastic, synthetic resin or ceramics as starting materials. What was missing was a process for silicone elastomers – that is, until now. WACKER has developed a 3D technology that makes it possible to build three-dimensional silicone objects for the first time.

  • Fig. 02: 3D_Silicones_Object

    Fig. 02: 3D_Silicones_Object

    A silicone part made by 3D printing. WACKER, the Munich-based chemical group, has developed a process that enables the printing of three-dimensional silicone objects for the first time. The process is ideal for numerous industrial sectors. It opens up completely new opportunities for developing products in the automotive, medical, household-appliance and lighting industries. Now prototypes with complex geometries can be produced quickly and flexibly, without expensive tools. In the same way, it is possible to produce small series and spare parts that have to be continuously modified to meet changing requirements.

  • Fig. 03: 3D_Printing_Process

    Fig. 03: 3D_Printing_Process

    Diagram of the WACKER 3D process. The first step is to design the part with a CAD program. After the spatial coordinates have been calculated (step 2), the printing instructions are generated (step 3). Then, the printer robot follows the instructions exactly and prints the silicone layers dot by dot (step 4). In this way, the virtual CAD model is transformed into a three-dimensional silicone part, layer by layer.

  • Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    The WACKER 3D process works like an ink-jet printer: the nozzle deposits a drop of silicone precisely at the point determined by the computer program (images 4a and 4b), generating a molded three-dimensional silicone part layer by layer from the virtual drawing (images 4c and 4d).

  • Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    The WACKER 3D process works like an ink-jet printer: the nozzle deposits a drop of silicone precisely at the point determined by the computer program (images 4a and 4b), generating a molded three-dimensional silicone part layer by layer from the virtual drawing (images 4c and 4d).

  • Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    The WACKER 3D process works like an ink-jet printer: the nozzle deposits a drop of silicone precisely at the point determined by the computer program (images 4a and 4b), generating a molded three-dimensional silicone part layer by layer from the virtual drawing (images 4c and 4d).

  • Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    Fig. 04a – d: Picture_Series_3D_Printing

    The WACKER 3D process works like an ink-jet printer: the nozzle deposits a drop of silicone precisely at the point determined by the computer program (images 4a and 4b), generating a molded three-dimensional silicone part layer by layer from the virtual drawing (images 4c and 4d).

  • Pachaly_Schuster

    Pachaly_Schuster

    Dr. Bernd Pachaly, head of silicones R&D at WACKER, and lab technician Stefanie Schuster developed new formulations for 3D printing in less than a year. The silicone not only needs to be color-fast and free of bubbles, but also has to have suitable flow properties.

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