Jan 8, 2019

Silicone 3D Printer – All You Need To Know About Silicone 3D Printing

3D printing continues to make breakthroughs by adding new materials into the game. Learn how silicone has become part of the 3D printing family in the following article.

Silicone 3D Printer – All You Need To Know A Relative Newcomer

Silicone deposited as a print. Source: Structur3d Printing / YouTube

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.

Silicone 3D Printer – All You Need To Know How It Works

The silicone 3D printing process. Source: plastics.gl

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 3D Printer – All You Need To Know Areas of Application

Earpads 3D printed from silicon. Source: Carbon 3D

Silicone’s areas of application follow from the material’s manifold properties:

  • Bio-compatibility makes silicone a good option in medical fields, especially as customized implants. Other applications include skin contact products, such as respirator masks, hearing aids, nosepads for eye glasses, headphones, wristbands, and various other attachments for wearables.
  • Temperature and radiation stability make silicone suitable for application in outdoor products and in the automotive industry. Specific mentions include plugs or hoses.
  • Elasticity allows silicone to be applied in areas where high flexibility and low compression is required. One example of this is the insoles of running shoes.
  • Transparency makes silicone useful in optical equipment. Such products include lenses and glasses.
  • Unique electrical conductivity and insulation make silicone ideal for sealing products in the automotive industry as well as for securing fluids in hydraulic applications.

Silicone 3D Printer – All You Need To Know Commercial Players

The head of an ACEO machine. Source: ACEO

The current top commercial players in the silicone 3D printing industry, based on their advanced development, include:

  • Wacker Chemie, who developed the first 3D printer for silicone products. They currently use ACEO as a registered trademark for manufacturing and selling silicone 3D printing products.
  • Envisiontec provides professional grade 3D printing solutions, including their E-Silicone materials for additive manufacturing.
  • Carbon 3D offers silicone urethane, a resin-based material solution.
  • Fripp Design, provides a silicone 3D printing service under the name Picsima.

Silicone 3D Printer – All You Need To Know Final Thoughts

A professional device. Source: TCT Magazine

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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