Materials Science

WACKER sets benchmarks in multimaterial 3D printing

11th July 2019

At the K 2019 International Trade Fair for Plastics and Rubber, the Munich-based chemical group WACKER will be unveiling a newly developed version of its pio-neering ACEO 3D printing technology with silicone rubber – and is thereby setting new benchmarks. The new ACEO Imagine Series K2 printer features numerous technical improvements and new software, allowing three-dimensional objects to be reproduced even more precisely and with extremely high dimensional accuracy. It can print up to four different silicone materials simultaneously, allowing objects to be printed in colour and with silicones of different hardness. Visitors to this year’s K show will be able to experience the fascinating potential of the new printing technology at the WACKER booth in Hall 6. K 2019 takes place in Düsseldorf, Germany, from October 16 to 23.

The Munich-based chemicals group already caused a sensation at the previous K show with its first 3D printer for silicone elastomers. Since then, the company has continued advancing this technology. Today, WACKER is the world’s leading service provider in additive printing with silicone technologies. The name ACEO stands for WACKER’s 3D printing service that offers 3D printing with real silicone rubber for a variety of purposes and applications. Devel-opers, prototyping specialists, scientists and numerous customers from the aerospace, rail, automotive and medical sectors now take advantage of the ACEO services.

At this year’s K show, WACKER will present the latest innovation in the field of 3D printing with silicone: the ACEO Imagine Series K2. With its multiple printing nozzles, the new printer can process up to four different silicone materials simultaneously, allowing entirely novel designs to be realised. For example, 3D objects can now be printed in different colours or with different degrees of hardness. The new technology also benefits the printing of hollow objects, which require support material. For such cases, up to three different materials and colours are available.

Such multimaterial printed objects are increasingly finding use in healthcare applications. For example, tumours or diseased blood vessels that have been scanned using imaging methods can now be distinguished in colour and copied extremely realistically in different hardnesses. This allows surgeons to practice for the operation in advance and so anticipate any possible complications.

Another highlight of the new generation of printers is its auto control technology. The printer measures the silicone layer applied after each printed layer and subsequently compares it with the target value specified in the CAD model. If the program detects any dis-crepancies, they are automatically corrected with the next layers.

Since this target-actual comparison does not use a virtual model, but the actual printed result, this form of in-line checking and correction is clearly superior to a check using the “digital twin” technology. In this way, the new generation of printers produces extremely precise and detailed 3D prints, which are even suitable for difficult industrial applications. ACEO’s auto-control technology thus sets new benchmarks in the additive processing of viscous materials such as silicone.

ACEO has also significantly improved the printing mechanism and control software. The new features allow mesh structures and other complex designs to be manufactured. They also facilitate the production of small series.