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        IMA

3D printing at K2016: Wacker’s first industrial 3D printer for silicones; DSM partners with Nexeo for filaments

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3D printing is gaining traction in the industry. German chemicals company Wacker Chemie is bringing to the K2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany, the process for the additive manufacturing of silicone rubber parts, since the company says up till now “there is no mature 3D printing technology available for silicones”. It will show the Aceo Imagine Series K printer at its booth.

At a pre-K show event in June, Peter Summo, Vice President, Engineering Silicones, said Aceo is the first industrial 3D printer for silicones. “It is a drop-on-demand method developed by Wacker. It prints considerably faster and is of a compact design,” he said, adding that the contact-less technology enables freedom in design. He also pointed to additive manufacturing being a revolutionary technology for healthcare, transportation, rapid prototyping, electronics/optics, and other applications.

Bernd Pachaly, Head of Wacker’s silicones research and responsible for the Aceo team said, “The automotive and aerospace industries are currently the main customer sectors for 3D.”

Pachaly, who started developing the solution in 2014, added, “At the moment, additive manufacturing is growing most rapidly in medical applications. Biomodelling and customised geometries are particularly promising, where silicones can display their favourable properties, like heat resistance, flexible at low temperatures, transparent and biocompatible. They can furthermore be pigmented in any colour and have good damping properties.”

Using a drop-on-demand technique, the printer head deposits tiny drops of silicone on a water-soluble substrate. The silicone is formulated so that the droplets flow together prior to curing, which is activated by exposure to UV light. This process ensures the formation of a homogenous workpiece, similar to an injection moulded part. After printing, the parts can be taken out of the printer immediately as they are fully cured and no further post-processing is needed. The use of water-soluble materials makes it possible to create overhangs and internal lattices.

Starting August, Wacker has been offering Aceo services with customers able to upload their own designs in a webshop and order 3D-printed silicone parts. These will be produced in the Aceo print fab.

Wacker says it is also currently building its own Aceo technology centre near its main site in Burghausen, Germany. In the future, customers will be able to test their own product ideas in the lab.

DSM partners with Nexeo for filaments for 3D printing

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In other news, Dutch chemicals firm DSM is partnering with Nexeo Solutions, a global chemical and plastics distributor, to bring new performance filaments to customers who do 3D printing using fused deposition modelling (FDM) technology.

DSM has developed two special filament grades. Arnitel ID is a thermoplastic copolyester widely used in electronics, sports and other high-end applications. It is a filament with good UV and chemical resistance compared to other flexible polymers such thermoplastic urethanes (TPUs), and which reaches elongation at break up to 400%. DSM says it drew on its extensive knowledge of the wire and cable industry to develop Arnitel ID, which exhibits no buckling and offers a higher print speed than existing thermoplastic elastomers in the market. It also exhibits better layer-to-layer adhesion when compared with the available ABS, PLA and TPU filaments in the 3D printing market.

Meanwhile, Novamid ID is a polyamide originally developed as speciality product line for the automotive and electronics industries. It is said to be a ductile and strong polymer that can withstand harsh environments and high temperatures of up to 150°C. The high crystallinity of the polymer allows for designs with overhangs.

Building on the experience in the 3D printing market, DSM now offers the materials as filaments, instead of plastic granules.

The significant growth forecasted in the 3D printing industry coupled with the customer needs for innovation on their current manufacturing processes explain the front step given by the two companies.

Both companies are convinced that this launch will boost the 3D sector and fill a void in certain demanding markets where some material requirements have been lacking.

(IMA)


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