The Best Sealing of Both Worlds

Image showing Le Joint Technique's standard seals

Le Joint Technique provides sealing solutions for various industries. (Photo: Le Joint Technique)

How can processes such as injection molding and 3D printing go hand in hand in the production of sealing devices? The collaboration of Le Joint Technique and ACEO® is a great example how two seemingly competing technologies benefit from each other. Le Joint Technique’s industrial manager, Bruno Turpin, shares insights into this success story.

Bruno, can you tell us about Le Joint Technique?

Le Joint Technique was founded in 1975 as a family business. We design and manufacture rubber, silicone, and elastomeric sealing devices for a variety of industries, from automotive or industrial to medical, cosmetics or convenience goods. Our production technology is injection molding, which allows us to produce thousands of parts within a very short time. Today, we have 100 employees.

How did you learn about ACEO®?

We have been working closely with WACKER for many years. They are an important partner for us, which is why we knew when ACEO® was being launched. We first met the team during their world premiere at K2016. At that time, we were not involved in 3D printing technologies with our sealing devices. But their technology made us curious, and this is how it all began.

How does your collaboration work?

Our customer wants a solution from CAD file to serial part. The existence of an additive manufacturing technology with silicones helped us re-think the prototyping process.

At the beginning of our projects we develop a sealing prototype which needs testing in our customer’s production environment. To create a prototype with injection molding, you need a mold first. This impacts project budgets and timings: The first prototype is not always the right one so you need to produce several molds, which is quite expensive and takes roughly 4-5 weeks per mold.

This is where ACEO® comes into the process. We provide the CAD files and they send us the silicone part. By using their technology in this pre-serial phase, we found a way to get a sealing prototype in only a couple of days with significantly lower cost than with injection molding. Injection molding is only economic and fast once you need a high volume of parts produced in a short time.

What are the benefits of combining the two technologies – additive manufacturing and injection molding – in your process?

3D printing with silicones is perfect and is an alternative for prototyping, while injection molding allows fast and high-volume production of serial parts. You could even say these processes have a symbiotic relationship. It is always an adventure to get to the serial part as most projects are time-sensitive, and our collaboration definitely helps us beat tight deadlines.

Apart from efficiency in timing, 3D printing is a great feasibility check. If we develop different sealing designs and don’t know which one works, we can now try all of them, which gives us more insights for research and development.

Another advantage is definitely the quality of the material. This means customers can actually try assembling with a 3D-printed silicone part from ACEO® and the serial part fom Le Joint Technique is almost identical in terms of color, shape, hardness or other properties.

How do you see the future of these technologies?

For us at Le Joint Technique, 3D printing is another service we could actively offer to our customers. A service which help us to accelerate product development steps. But we need to educate our customers about the advantages first: Customers need to understand that 3D printing is one essential step in their development. In this pre-serial phase, we can supply different sealing parts they can test together with their product, ensuring a perfect sealing solution and thus an optimized end product.

Sooner or later people will understand the benefits of this young technology which is constantly evolving. If we are not open minded and embrace 3D printing at this early stage, we might soon be busy compensating for the lessons we did not learn.

Image showing a 3D-printed silicone prototype seal by ACEO® used by Le Joint Technique

3D-printed silicone prototype seal by ACEO® used by Le Joint Technique (Photo: ACEO®; Wacker Chemie AG)