ACEO announced a new multi-material capability for their silicone 3D printers.
The German company has been producing professional silicone 3D printers for many years. With them you can 3D print flexible objects with unusual geometries typically not easily producible with conventional silicone production techniques.
In recent years they’ve tweaked their portfolio by adding new materials. One, for example, is a conductive silicone material.
But now they’ve taken a rather large step forward by introducing the ability to 3D print both flexible silicones AND rigid materials — in the same 3D print job. They explain:
“Today, we are proud to announce another unique multi-material option, which allows silicone elastomers to be printed in combination with epoxy thermoset material. WACKER ACEO and DELO Industrial Adhesives worked together to enable this novel combination of hard and soft materials. The technology uses DELO’s specially developed DELO KATIOBOND AM6677 grade that has been optimized for printing with ACEO’s drop-on-demand process.”
This is a fascinating development that opens up many possibilities. Let’s look at the sample print image at top, provided by ACEO.
It’s a squeezable dispenser, and you can see the squeezey part is made from flexible material, while the neck and nozzle are made from rigid material. The key thing here is that this object was 3D printed in a single job, and is not an assembly made from multiple prints.
There’s more: ACEO says the two materials being used do not bond to each other. This means that the dispenser’s neck can be unscrewed and removed without effort — even though it was 3D printed together with the rest of the dispenser. Incredible!
The mind boggles with the possibilities here. Some initial thoughts:
- Flexible and sticky grips could be 3D printed around handles
- Long and spindly silicone shapes could be made stiffer by including a rigid internal spine
- Containers could include flexible hinges made from silicone
- Flexible parts could include rigid bolt holes to hold them more securely
- Long and flat gaskets could include a rigid core to allow them to be inserted easily into assemblies
And so on, you get the idea here.
This development did not require a change to ACEO’s equipment, which has included multiple deposition nozzles for some time. Their industrial line includes four nozzles, but now at least one can be used with the new rigid material.
Note that the multiple nozzle configuration allows for not only the addition of a rigid material, but also for support material. This means that you can easily 3D print highly complex geometries in a combination of flexible and rigid materials.