The Benefits of 100% Silicone

Image showing quality control of a 3D-printed silicone part at ACEO<sup>®</sup>

At ACEO®, silicones are customized for the requirements of individual applications. With over 70 years of know-how at WACKER, every process step meets highest industry standards.(Photo: ACEO®; Wacker Chemie AG)

Before ACEO® first launched their revolutionary technology, silicone could not be 3D-printed. Today, many industries can benefit from the use of 100% silicone in prototyping or small series production. But what is so special about “100% silicone” or “real elastomers”? Dr. Bernd Pachaly shares some valuable insights in our Q&A.     

Dr. Pachaly, what exactly are silicones?

Silicones, chemically accurate poly (organo) siloxanes, is a term for a group of inorganic synthetic polymers in which silicon atoms are linked by oxygen atoms. An important part of this material class is silicone rubber, which is obtained from liquid or high viscous formulation by various crosslinking chemistries.

What kind of silicones are used at ACEO®?

ACEO® is using liquid silicone rubber formulation, known for its use in injection molding by Wacker Chemie AG. As a WACKER brand, ACEO® benefits from over 70 years of knowhow to continually develop these silicones for individual applications and needs.

The main components are silicone polymer, crosslinker, reinforcing filler and catalyst to crosslink the high viscous mixture to form rubber. There is no organic matter or copolymer involved and the result is real rubber (100% silicone) and not “rubber-like” material. The crosslinking reaction is Platinum-catalyzed hydrosilylation wihout the use of by-products or residues.

What is so special about 100% silicone in contrast to other types of silicones?

Silicones offer a unique combination of chemical and mechanical properties, which organic rubbers cannot achieve, such as

  • flexibility and elasticity
  • weather stability
  • a wide range of application temperatures
  • radiation resistance and
  • physiological intertness.

Typically, silicone rubber is biocompatible and food compliant. It does not require any additives and stabilizers, as it is stable by nature.

3D printing vs injection molding with silicone – why should someone use 3D printing?

3D printing of silicone does not require any tool or mold. The digital model is directly converted into a physical object. This reduces production costs especially for prototyping small product series.

Another advantage is production time: The process cycle is much shorter and allows rapid product modification in product development (read more).

The opportunity to individualize every single 3D-printed part caters to the needs of industries such as oral or dental care, allowing to create dental splints that mimic human tissue.

What kind of applications and industries can benefit from 3D-printed 100% silicone?

Rapid prototyping, small product series and spare parts on demand are of high value for typical industrial applications, e.g. in transportation or machinery (read more).

For the medical field, 3D printing with silicone allows individualized applications like anatomical models – a major advantage for education and presurgical planning, as ACEO®‘s products can help customize medical treatment for individual patients (read more).

Image showing 3D-printed silicone parts at ACEO<sup>®</sup>