Wacker Preps to Unveil Silicone 3D Printer
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on June 30, 2016 |
Chemical giant Wacker Chemie releases further details about its silicone 3D printer.

Last year, chemical giant Wacker Chemie made it known that it had developed a novel process for 3D printing with silicone. The company has now released more information about the technology, including when it will finally make its public debut.

Development on the silicone 3D printer began in 2014 under the WACKER SILICONES, resulting in a process capable of rapidly depositing drops of transparent silicone with a platinum catalyst and water-soluble support material at rates of 100 grams per hour. The layers are subsequently cured with ultraviolet light, producing a clear, flexible object with details finer than 100 microns. 

Wacker’s ACEO process is capable of 3D printing silicone with complex geometries, including internal lattice structures. (Image courtesy of Wacker.)

Wacker has now given the printer a name and a release date. While the “drop-on-demand” process is being called ACEO, the machine itself is dubbed the ACEO Imagine Series K. Both will debut at the K trade show, the largest exhibition for plastic and rubber, in Düsseldorf, Germany, this October.

Until now, the use of elastomers within 3D printing has been somewhat limited, especially when it comes to silicone. Products from Hyrel 3D and Structur3D enable 3D printing with silicone on a small desktop level and Fripp Design has been developing its own silicone 3D printer for some time. However, a dedicated 3D printer has yet to be released, leaving silicone a material primarily for use with injection molding.

As Bernd Pachaly, head of Wacker’s silicones research and manager of the ACEO team, said of the technology, “It can be used to make parts and assemblies with complex geometries, as well as ‘impossible products’ that could not previously be produced.” 

A sealing lip 3D printed from silicone with the ACEO Imagine Series K 3D printer. (Image courtesy of Wacker.)

He elaborated on the potential of silicone 3D printing for the automotive and aerospace industries, as well as for biomodeling and customization, saying, “Silicones are heat-resistant and flexible at low temperatures and are transparent and biocompatible. They can furthermore be pigmented in any color and have good damping properties.”

The ACEO Imagine Series K is only one part of a larger strategy for Wacker. Though the printer will be officially unveiled in October, Wacker will be giving customers a taste by offering 3D printing services through the ACEO brand. This will allow customers to upload designs and have them 3D printed by the ACEO team, which will also offer consultation and development services.

Additionally, Wacker is in the process of building the ACEO technology center near company headquarters in Burghausen, Germany. The ACEO campus will feature the Open Print Lab, where customers can 3D print products for testing.

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