Wacker presents the first Industrial 3D Printer for Silicones and ACEO Imagine Series K at K 2016
WACKER, the Munich, Germany based chemical company, will be showcasing a world first at K 2016, the 20th International Trade Fair for Plastics and Rubber: the first industrial 3D printer for silicones. The high-tech device – called ACEO Imagine Series K – will be in operation in Hall 6, Booth A10 throughout the entire tradeshow. Wacker’s 3D printing process for the additive manufacturing of silicone rubber parts has been the subject of discussions for months. Up to now, there is no mature 3D printing technology available for silicones. The process developed by Wacker is considered a milestone in additive manufacturing. K 2016 will take place in Düsseldorf, Germany, from October 19 to 26, 2016 (Hall 6, Booth A10)
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 mould – i.e., it is a mould-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 favourable 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 colour 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 homogeneous 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 web shop 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.
Wacker will also present other novelties, such as New Applications for Silicone Films; New Silicone Additive by WACKER Improves Manufacture of Wood Plastic Composites; New VINNEX® Additives for Enhanced Bioplastics; New Liquid Silicone Rubber with Extremely High Shore Hardness; Hydrolysis- and Steam-Resistant Liquid Silicone Rubber; Liquid Silicone Rubber with Improved Oil Resistance for the Automotive Industry; New Self-Adhesives Liquid Silicone Rubber with High Elastic Recovery; Toluene-free Primer for Silicone Composites; High-Transparency LED-Encapsulants with High-Refractive-Index; Highly Transparent Liquid Silicone Rubber for Optical Elements with Low Volatile Content, and showcases UV-fluorescent Pigment Paste for Liquid Silicone Rubber, as well it unveils New Electrically Conductive Silicone Rubber Dispersion for the Cable Industry.