WACKER, a global materials and technology manufacturer based in Munich, announced in 2016 that it had developed the first-ever industrial 3D printer for silicone materials. Around the same time, the company launched its new ACEO brand, which would be dedicated to the 3D printing of silicone rubbers. The brand is based out of its ACEO Campus in Burghausen, Germany, but is now expanding to the US. WACKER will be opening a 3D printing lab at its R&D center for silicones in Ann Arbor, Michigan; the lab will be its first regional 3D printing lab outside of Germany.
The new lab will start off with two 3D printers, which will each be able to print with a wide range of silicone rubber materials with different Shore A hardnesses and in different colors, including special media resistant FVMQ grades.
“In general, North America is the largest and most dynamic market for 3D printing,” said Bernd Pachaly, Head of the ACEO 3D printing project at WACKER. “With our new lab, prospective partners will obtain local access to the compelling possibilities of 3D printing with liquid silicone rubber.”
ACEO will continue to 3D print and deliver silicone components from its facility in Burghausen, but the new lab in Ann Arbor will provide technical service and advice to customers in North America, allowing them to get hands-on experience with silicone 3D printing technology.
“Right from the start, we will be engaged in projects involving medical devices and components needed for health care, transportation, aerospace and electronics, all of which are key industry segments, particularly for silicone-based products,” continued Pachaly. “Establishing a regional lab will support expansion of ACEO’s footprint in the US and furthers WACKER’s global service network for silicone rubber 3D printing solutions.”
ACEO’s drop-on-demand 3D printing technology allows for a great deal of design freedom and the printing of complex, functional components. Silicone rubber is a valuable 3D printing material, offering properties such as temperature and radiation resistance as well as biocompatibility. These properties make it a popular material for a range of industries including medicine, aerospace, automotive, equipment and mechanical engineering.
Since its inception, ACEO has expanded and further developed its technology, introducing multi-material 3D printing and functional materials. As the first company to introduce industrial silicone 3D printing, WACKER and its ACEO brand are exploring uncharted territory. Other companies have arisen with silicone 3D printing technology, but WACKER remains among the pioneers.
Locating the new ACEO 3D printing lab at the R&D facility in Ann Arbor is part of the company’s strategic business model for being close to its customers and serving regional business trends, according to Ian Moore, Vice President WACKER SILICONES at Wacker Chemical Corporation in Adrian, Michigan.
“Our Innovation Center is focused on developing advanced and forward-looking solutions that support regional trends which can be quickly brought to market,” Moore said. “Our team of scientists and highly specialized experts in the field of silicones and 3D printing will be able to offer our business partners valuable technical cooperation and services.”
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