3D printing is an innovative and versatile technique for creating prototypes and scale models of parts and also end-use products for the automotive sector, among others. Invented in the mid-1980s, it has since undergone significant advancements. The first industries to apply 3D printing to their processes were the aeronautic and the automotive sectors. Today, however, in the automotive industry, 3D Printing still remains in its beginning stages as it is not used for mass production but rather for Rapid-Prototyping, Tooling and Pre- or small series.

 

How does 3D printing use silicone?

 

The automotive industry has been using 3D Printing for some time primarily focusing on metal and plastic parts using the corresponding 3D Printing materials in different forms.

Today in front of new challenges, the automotive industry is looking for new materials able to being used by 3D Printing. Silicones are a very well-known and used raw material in the automotive industry thanks to their numerous properties and characteristics. The main uses are in Technical parts (Seals, hoses etc.) and Rapid Prototyping through Molding and Sealing & Bonding.

Here at Elkem Silicones, we develop Silicones as a raw material to be used with different 3D printing processes. These Silicones endow products with certain mechanical and physicochemical characteristics allowing achieving the same properties we accomplish with traditional processes. We are also looking forward to obtaining novel performances by combining 3D Printing and Silicone chemistry.

 

The 3 main advantages of 3D printing in the automotive industry

 

  1. It saves you time: Speed of Innovation is a major advantage of 3D Priniting. Traditional molding for Prototyping can take several weeks or months whereas with 3D printing you can quickly create, modify and change models all in the same day and thus maximize your productivity of your Innovation cycle.
  2. It’s good for the environment: 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process which means you do not remove material. You add materials in layers and only what you need, thus eliminating waste and your impact on the environment.
  3. It gives you freedom of design: Traditional molding and manufacturing techniques are limited in the types of shapes you can create but 3D printing opens up a limitless world of possibilities. Thanks to the use of computer-aided design (CAD) objects can be created without limitation in space (you can create holes, drains, cavities and more) to build customized 3D objects.

Although 3D printing is still in its beginning stages, it has made and will continue to make considerable progress. For the time being, this technique may not yet be used for mass production but it does represent a great way to create novel designs and improve current applications. Perhaps one day we will be able to use this manufacturing process to create high quality, customized objects in mass.

Posted by Karsten Schlichter

Business Development Manager, Expert for 3D printing solutions