Additive Technology Grows—and Needs Know-How
One of the things that is true about additive manufacturing is that the technology is growing by leaps and bounds. And another of the things that is equally true is that the know-how necessary to use the technology is something that is absolutely useful for companies to understand in order for them to get the most out of what the additive technologies can provide.
3D printing silicone rubber
One of the things that we weren’t aware of is that there is the capability to 3D print silicone rubber. But we’ve learned that Munich-based WACKER has developed a proprietary technology named “ACEO,” which the chemical company describes as “the world’s first industrial-scale technology for the additive manufacturing of liquid silicone rubber components.” And about that tech, a couple years ago WACKER established what it calls an “Open Print Lab” in Burghausen, Germany, the purpose of which is to provide customers with first-hand knowledge of how that process could work for them.
Given the success of that, the company has just established another Open Print Lab, this one in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The lab is equipped with two printers that can handle a broad range of silicone rubber with different Shore A hardnesses and in varying colors. According to WACKER, its ACEO process can produce highly complex geometries and lends itself to serial production as well as the cost-efficient manufacture of replacement parts.
Clearly, the Open Print Lab can help prospective users of the tech to gain a better understanding of what it can—and cannot—do.
According to Kunihiro Hoshi, chief engineer for the GX 470: “Three of my top goals were to create a body-on-frame vehicle with sweeping off-road performance and unibody-like on-road capability, and, of course, it had to meet the Lexus quality standard.” He met his goals. But why would anyone want to bang this vehicle around on rocks?
Topology optimization cuts part development time and costs, material consumption, and product weight. And it works with additive, subtractive, and all other types of manufacturing processes, too.
Many countries who once were major players from a vehicle production/export perspective are finding it difficult to even find their niche today.