Silicone 3D printing is still fairly new in the technology sector when compared to existing materials. Because it doesn’t heat up as easily as thermoplastics and metals, it was initially a difficult material to 3D print.
Meaningful progress was made in 2016 when Wacker Chemie, a leading chemical giant, unveiled the first silicone 3D printer. This development brought great options in critical areas of application, especially in the health and medical areas, where silicone is considered to be bio-compatible and tear resistant.
Now, silicone joins the ranks of printable materials such as thermoplastics, ceramics, and metal. This is also welcome considering how expensive silicone injection molding is, especially for customized parts or small series production.
The main components of a silicone 3D printer are the printer base, the silicone extruder, the pump and the cartridges. The operation of the device is similar to that of an inkjet printer.
The silicone 3D printing workspace is enclosed in a glass case. The nozzle rapidly extrudes tiny droplets of silicone one by one onto the printing area, forming a fine line. Coordinates to form the desired shape are sent by a computer. The print area is then exposed to UV light, causing the silicone to vulcanize. The process is then repeated until the complete object is formed.
When silicone solidifies, it can’t return to its liquid state. This is what makes it heat resistant, just like traditionally developed silicone parts.
Silicone’s areas of application follow from the material’s manifold properties:
The current top commercial players in the silicone 3D printing industry, based on their advanced development, include:
Though silicone 3D printing is still in its infancy, the technique has made strides, and tangible applications already exist. The material offers great creative and printing opportunities for those in the field, whether as an engineer, designer, or hobbyist. The market is also growing for the material, especially in the small series and customized parts production.
License: The text of "Silicone 3D Printer – All You Need To Know About Silicone 3D Printing" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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