German RepRap GmbH, a manufacturer of industrial 3D printers, has developed a platform for liquid silicone rubber that it claims makes it possible to 3D print heat-cured silicone parts using a high-performance LSR.
The company's next-generation printer — the model L320 — was designed to use a high-performance LSR from Dow Performance Silicones, called Silastic 3D 3335. The LSR prints colored parts, offers properties comparable to injection molded components and transfers easily to injection molding processes, according to RepRap.
Unlike thermoplastic materials, LSR is a thermoset that must be cured. The L320 printer precisely dispenses and cures Silastic 3D material, which "speaks to the ingenuity and quality" of the printer and specially formulated material, according to Tom Jenkins, executive director of business development for R.D. Abbott Co. Inc., North American distributor of Dow silicone rubber products.
"German RepRap's printer cures the rubber while it's producing parts with physical and dynamic properties that are comparable to an LSR molded part," Jenkins said. "The combination of the printer with the Dow 3D 3335 LSR is the only commercially available technology that heat cures the silicone rubber, the same curing method as used in the LSR manufacturing process."
Since the printer hit the market last July, RepRap has been working with R.D. Abbott and other companies to promote liquid additive manufacturing and how LAM can help businesses move from design to production more quickly, or make customized parts. Common applications include seals, gaskets, shoe midsoles and insoles. In addition, business partners said LAM and Silastic 3D LSR support greater design freedom for other products in the automotive, aerospace, marine, medical devices, defense, transportation and window manufacturing markets.