Exclusive interview with ACEO® - A Wacker Brand on 3D printing and silicones

As innovations for silicone elastomers evolve, it is important for companies to keep up-to-date with developing trends and emerging technologies – such as the recent capability for 3D printing with silicone elastomers.

The ability to use 3D technology is a recent development; the material properties in elastomers are problematic, and therefore injection moulding processes have traditionally been used. However, intensive research has been undertaken in order to finally achieve 3D printing with silicone materials. It is expected that the ability to 3D print products and components will transform various industry sectors, allowing businesses to streamline their processes and lower costs. 

Ahead of thie presentation at this year's Silcone Elastomers World Summit we spoke to Bernd Pachaly, Vice President of the Innovation Silicones Service Unit - Project Manager for Silicones 3D Printing Project at ACEO - A Wacker Brand about recent and future developments in 3D printing technology.

You’re exploring 3D printing with silicones, what makes this technology new and novel?

So far 3D printing of complex structures wasn’t possible with silicones. So it’s only natural, that we regard our ACEO® technology as an important asset to the world of additive manufacturing and as a complementary technology to e.g. injection molding.

Besides that, we from WACKER are experts in the fields of real elastomers – but novices in 3D printing. Therefore, it is our mission to combine the multiple advantages of a highly versatile material with the benefits of additive manufacturing. In order to further pioneer the technology we focus on expanding our eco-system by increasing our expertise across all relevant disciplines meaning materials, hardware, software and design.

How do you think or hope this technology will develop in the future?

Apart from the standard business in the world of additive manufacturing which are prototypes or individualized products, we see a high potential for “impossible” designs. By that we understand parts which couldn’t be produced with any other technology before. Inner structures and lattices are far too complex or simply impossible to create molds for. The advantages are yet not fully exhausted as we are at the very beginning of a new era. But to name a few, we can achieve weight reduction or new haptic effects. We have some demo parts which we share during customer meetings to give an idea and inspire. Usually everybody remains thrilled by the new possibilities.

Within the industry you serve, where do you foresee the biggest growth or developments occurring over the next 5 years?

We get requests from all industries and applications. However, we note a very high interest from the health care sector where silicones are already widely accepted for their biocompatibility and pureness. By now there is hardly any biocompatible material available in the 3D printing market. So this is clearly an advantage of 100% silicones.

What are you most looking forward to by attending the conference in Cologne, Germany later this year?

The conference is one of the top events in the world of elastomers and basically a meet & greet in the industry. I am proud to present our industrial solution for 3D printing of silicones only two years after having printed the first voxel (= tiny droplet; volume pixel). The audience in Cologne will understand right away that this is not a success easily earned – but based on the strong competence of WACKER and the will to break new ground. 

The session ‘3D Printing and The Future’ presented at Silicone Elastomers World Summit 2016 will demonstrate innovative products and technology that have only recently become available on the market.

Presentations from industry experts such as ACEO - A Wacker Brand and German RepRap will discuss a number of factors including why LSR in 3D, 3D printing solutions, examples of 3D printed LSR parts and an outlook on what the future holds for this new technology.

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