Silicone 3D Printer

3D printing with silicone is a difficult, recently discovered art, but with the arrival of new printers on the market that can handle the material, we can expect quite a stir in the 3D printing industry. Parts made by injection or extrusion from silicone are being used in many fields and have a huge number of applications. To name a few, there are items that need the properties of silicone such as gaskets, grippers, housing components or washers. These are items that require a model to be made and then a mould into which the silicone will be injected or pressed, which greatly prolongs and complicates the process of making silicone items. As declared by manufacturers of 3D silicone printers, silicone printed in 3D reduces the time needed to produce such items by up to 90% of the time needed to prepare them using the traditional method. This is a very big difference, which translates directly into the sheer cost of making silicone parts. An example list of practical applications of layered silicone printing:

The use of silicone in 3D printing:

  • Medical implants and medicine: 3D implants made from silicone – body parts to which silicone has very similar properties such as cartilage. An example on which intensive research is underway is the 3D printed meniscus. Silicone is also used in tissue engineering, as it can provide an excellent scaffolding for tissue multiplication for scientific experiments and the manufacture of medical implants. Silicone will also prove useful in the creation of medical models to aid in surgical exercises, thanks to its properties similar to human tissue. Making unique and intricate silicone models using 3D printing technology can now be made much simpler and quicker.
  • Prosthetics: Silicone dentures or inlays for prostheses made using 3D printing are perhaps the best example of the possibilities of silicone printing as it is a highly unique form that will not work in mass production and repetition
  • Robotics: Silicone is well suited for components such as grippers for machines or robots, which are thus able to grip and manipulate delicate objects
  • Wearables: The production of personalised items such as grips or covers for smartwatches, smartphones and other everyday devices is a new possibility with our own silicone printer.
  • Textiles: The use of silicone in stretch fabrics or as inserts can serve more personalised applications in fashion or sportswear by enabling the creation of unique solutions with a 3D printer.
  • Electronics: 3D printed silicone is being explored as a potential material for flexible and stretchable electronics
  • Acoustics: Ideal material for sound and vibration damping, e.g. acoustic screens, sound absorbers and vibration dampers.

Challenges for the 3D silicone printer

3D printing from polymers is, in practice, a fairly simple method due to the thermoplastic nature of these materials. Thermoplastic materials receive their desired properties when heated by the printer nozzle and cooled. In the case of silicone, once solidified, the material cannot become flexible again for moulding through the printer nozzle. Compared to printers using photopolymer materials, silicones are highly UV-resistant and cannot be cured in this way.  Silicones require an additional component to make the material sensitive to light or heat, two conditions used in traditional 3D printing that unfortunately do not work very well as a trigger to initiate a polymerisation reaction in the silicone material. Special materials are now more widely used in resin printer technology, which, however, do not print from pure silicone, but from mixtures of silicone. This enables a wider use of this type of material, but ultimately negatively affects its properties. On the other hand, this procedure makes it possible to print more widely and with materials that are similar in properties to silicone.

Uszczelka osłonowa wydrukowana w technologii druku z silikonu

Which silicone printer – the best silicone printing solutions

Many companies are trying to develop their own concept for printing with silicone. The biggest problem with this method is the curing of the material from which the individual layers are applied, which is why there have been several concepts implemented by individual companies. One solution is the simultaneous application of silicone and UV-curable material. Unfortunately, this technique is not developing rapidly. A related printing technique is mixing silicones with resins and printing on printers designed for photo-curable resin. Representatives of this method are the companies 3D Carbon and Desktop Metal. Another example of dealing with the problem is the use of curing in the form of temperature from a halogen lamp – LAM. Liquid Additive Manufacturing is a term introduced by German company RapRap, and now, after some market turbulence, this method is being used in printers by InnovatiQ.

3D printing from silicone – printers using pure silicone

There are currently several devices on the market that can 3D print from pure silicone. Top models include brands such as Spectroplast which has a 3D SAM modle, Desktop Health EnvisionTec which has a 3D-Bioplotter or InnovatioQ with its LiQ 320 printer. However, we decided to present a model from French company Lynxter, which has its flagship 3D S300X. There are several reasons why we recommend this printer, with performance and precision being among the most important. It is a silicone 3D printer introduced at the end of 2022 and has interesting specifications: a large workspace to print a 300 x 250 x 200 mm part and a print precision of 100 microns. This printer uses industrial and medical silicones such as RTV2 silicone 5, 10, 25, 40 ShA, 45shA. The ability to print from such polyurethane materials with 50 to 85 ShA is an added advantage. This is a printer that has a head for printing supports and a two-component head for printing silicone specific parts. The use of so many heads in silicone printing allows materials with different physical properties to be combined in a single print. This makes it possible to print materials intended for skin contact such as orthoses, end parts that are intended for further processing (sandblasting or painting) or textiles or their components in an extraordinary performance for this type of material.

3D printer printing from silicone materials

An interesting proposition of a 3D printer printing from silicone materials, with high performance and great printing parameters

Silikonowa drukarka 3D do kupienia w sklepie internetowym