Inner Structures: The Key to Creating the Impossible

Image showing Felix Leidmann at the ACEO<sup>®</sup> Campus

Felix Leidmann researches at ACEO® how different inner structures affect an object’s mechanical properties (Photo: ACEO®; Wacker Chemie AG)

The world of additive manufacturing is evolving rapidly. The 3D printing ecosystem spans a variety of technologies and materials, each coming with advantages for certain applications. When it comes to 3D printing with silicones, ACEO® has – since its launch in 2016 – continuously strengthened its pioneering role. The entrepreneurial backbone (ACEO® is a WACKER brand), experts in their respective disciplines from material to software, a new business model and a natural curiosity for research ensure the success journey has only just begun.

Thinking out of the box from the inside

What is the most striking feature of additive manufacturing? The hardware and software allow the production of parts that cannot be produced with other technologies. What is the most striking feature of using silicone? It is the manifold properties of the material: temperature and radiation resistance, biocompatibility, variation of hardness and colors – to only name a few. The true magic happens when hardware, software and material are brought together. ACEO® offers this system solution, and builds its expertise on fundamental knowledge and continuous research. Which takes us to the nest question: What is the most striking feature of ACEO®’s solution? Not only does it provide a new way to produce prototypes or small series with silicones, it revolutionizes design because it allows you to create inner structures in 3D-printed parts.

Taking a closer look inside 3D+

Research is the alpha and omega of scientific progress. Felix Leidmann joined the ACEO® team for his master’s thesis to further explore inner structures. His background in Mechanical Engineering is the basis for his mission: to find out how different structures affect an object’s mechanical properties. While conventional production methods can help save weight or material, their opportunities always end at the literal core. This is where ACEO® comes in with what they call “3D+” – freedom of design with inner structures tailor made for the customer’s requirements. During his research project, Felix created geometries for 3D-printed parts, tested different structures such as the Schwarz minimal surfaces or octet truss, and learned how these structures affect the mechanical behavior of the parts. Think of a simple shoe sole: You could 3D print it without inner structures, which means it will be too heavy. Depending on the inner structure that is applied in the product design, the sole will be lighter but also more or less elastic. As a result, harder soles will use a different inner structure than lighter soles. And Felix’ mission is to find the perfect match for each part.

Endless applications with great teamwork and additive manufacturing

The ACEO® team is involved in every step of the way. “Research and production go hand in hand – if a part I created does not work with the hardness of the silicone, I can walk to my colleagues and ask them to adjust the material. The next moment, I can print another part with the new material and see how the change of hardness works with the structure”, says Felix. His goal is to use his 3D+ knowledge outside the realms of research and development. “I would really like to see how my results can be applied for customers’ prototypes or small series.” At ACEO®’s speed of R&D, it will not take long until this happens. Inner structures affect a part’s weight, they allow you to control its mechanical properties, and they provide endless possibilities for product designers. But most of all, they are key to creating impossible products at ACEO®.

Image showing inner structures in CAD

A variety of inner structures in CAD from Felix Leidmann’s research project with ACEO®