While several companies have developed 3D printing materials and processes with similar properties capable of simulating silicone, so far 3D printing with actual silicone materials hasn’t been possible. However, 100 year old chemical manufacturing giant WACKER CHEMIE revealed in their recently released Q2 Report that their WACKER SILICONES division has developed new technology making it possible to use silicone 3D printing materials with additive manufacturing technology. The new technology was developed alongside German product development company Ingenieure GmbH, and will have applications in markets as diverse as the medical industry, automotive parts, contact lenses and consumer products.
The reason that 3D printing with silicone hasn’t been viable until now, has to do with the materials properties that make it such a desirable material in the first place. This is because silicone cannot simply be heated up and printed into shapes the same way that thermoplastics or metals are. Traditionally, silicone parts could only be produced using an injection-molding processes, which is quite costly unless being used to manufacture large production runs of products. But the cost of developing molds makes the process far too expensive for general prototyping, customisation and product development needs. In order to make it possible to use silicone for those purposes, WACKER researchers needed to develop a completely different process.Read more