ACEO Starts 3D Printing Silicone in the USA
ACEO has made arrangements to provide regional silicone rubber 3D printing services in the USA.
The German company has been producing silicone 3D printers for several years using their own unique process. They explain:
“The ACEO technology is based on a drop-on-demand principle. The print head deposits single silicone voxels on a building platform. These voxels merge smoothly into a homogeneous surface. After each layer, the curing process is activated by UV light. A three-dimensional object is printed layer by layer with the use of support material to create complex structures, overhangs or cavities. Once the object is 3D-printed and removed from the building platform, the support material is washed off with water. The object is subsequently post-cured to remove volatiles and achieve the final mechanical properties.”
ACEO is a branch of WACKER SILICONES, which produces a variety of silicone products and services. By deploying silicones using 3D print technology, they enable the production of highly unusual silicone components that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to produce using conventional techniques.
I suspect there is rapidly growing demand for silicone 3D prints, as evidenced by the sudden interest in a competitor’s silicone device last year. It’s likely ACEO is seeing similar demand.
Therefore it makes sense that they are opening another 3D printing service location to add to their initial operation based in Germany.
The new center will be located at the company’s research and development site in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They explain:
“WACKER, the Munich-based chemical group, is currently expanding its ACEO 3D printing services for silicone rubber and announced the opening of a US-based printing lab later this year. The facility, which will be located at WACKER’s R&D center for silicones in Ann Arbor (MI), is the company’s first regional 3D printing lab outside of Germany. Complementing the ACEO Campus in Burghausen, Germany, the lab will serve the growing demand for additive manufacturing solutions in North America. WACKER has earmarked a single digit million US-Dollar amount for the investment.”
Their new service, equipped with dual silicone 3D printers, will be able to produce 3D silicone objects in a wide variety of shore hardnesses. This should enable easy use of their prints in many different applications.
However, one challenge I see facing ACEO is the fact that the silicone industry has yet to widely adopt 3D printing and thus likely requires considerable education to open eyes to new possibilities of design. This pattern has occurred in several other industries, and the same would be required here.
That said, it would seem that ACEO’s new center may be just the place to perform this work: clients and prospects can be brought in to see what experts are doing, and this exposure may stimulate ideas and ultimately grow use of silicone 3D printing for ACEO and other vendors.