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The challenge

Room for improvement

A relative newcomer to the global 3D print market, silicone has enormous potential for 3D printing and is estimated to be worth over USD$91 billion dollars by 2026.

3D printed silicone has great potential and the Global Silicone Market is expected to reach $91.4 Billion by 2026. ©  Nick Pitsas

As a new technology however, 3D printing with silicone has its challenges. Key issues include slow print times and relatively low resolution.

In addition, current silicone resins can only be used with specialised printers, and this can be expensive.

Our response

Creating a better silicone resin for 3D printers

Researchers from our biomedical polymers lab have developed a family of new silicone products that overcome these challenges.

Parts printed with the novel resins boast a suite of attributes including biocompatibility, super softness, great compressive elasticity, high transparency and tuneable mechanical properties.

The new resins are capable of printing complex designs in high resolution, including irregular shapes, thin walls and hollow structures. What's more, they can be used with off-the-shelf printers, without any need for modification.

The silicones have applications in 3D printed medical devices and customised products such as dental devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants, prosthetics, and other patient specific medical devices. These unique 'designer' resins have the capability to help fast track prototyping some of these biomedical devices.

An infographic demonstrating the various attributes of CSIRO's 3D printed silicone resin such as high resolution, high transparency, compressive elasticity, biocompatible, tunable mechanical properties, superglue for glass and metal, suitable for digital light processing printing and potentially suitable for stereolithography, ink jet and extrusion printing

Our 3D printed silicone resin has many excellent attributes ©  CSIRO

The results


The resins are compatible on the digital light processing 3D printer - light wavelength range from 360-500 nm - and they are also accessible to common commercially available desktop DLP printers. The technology is likely to also work in stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers and perhaps with modification in other photocurable 3D printers such as inkjet and extrusion.

A surprising novel feature is the resins' superglue properties. The resins can easily affix glass and metal, opening up an entirely new market as a construction adhesive.

We've patented the novel silicone resins and we're seeking industrial partners to help commercialise the product.

[Music plays and an image appears of a researcher pouring a beaker of liquid into a glass receptacle on a machine and text appears: We’re paving the way for a new era of manufacturing with silicone]

[Image changes to show a close view of clear liquid being poured into a rectangular receptacle inside a clear tray and text appears: We’ve developed a unique silicone resin…]

[Image changes to show a silicone heart on a petri dish and text appears: … that can be used for 3D printing medical parts]

[Image changes to show a researcher picking up a green plastic box shaped lid from a machine and text appears: Currently, 3D printing with silicone is slow and relatively low resolution]

[Image changes to show a 3D printer in operation and text appears: And current resins can only be used on special printers, which is expensive.]

[Image changes to show a researcher pouring clear liquid from a beaker into a receptacle on a machine and text appears: But our researchers have found a way to solve this.]

[Image changes to show a close view of a researcher looking at a 3D printed silicone heart and text appears: They’ve made a resin that prints complex designs in high resolution and faster build times.]

[Image changes to show a 3D printer in operation and text appears: And it can be used with off-the-shelf printers!]

[Image changes to show a close view liquid heating below a glass receptacle on a machine and text appears: The special resin can be tailored to suit different applications…]

[Image changes to show liquid being poured from a beaker into a glass receptacle and text appears: … and produces parts that are super elastic and soft.]

[Image changes to show a hand in a yellow glove on the right and a 3D resin printed hand next to it on the left and text appears: The resin is biocompatible, making it perfect for 3D printing customised biomedical parts…]

[Image changes to show a resin printed copy of a jaw and teeth and text appears: … like hearing aids, dental appliances, prosthetics ad other patient-specific devices]

[Image changes to show a close view of liquid being poured from a beaker into a receptable on a machine and text appears: Plus, it also has super glue properties, making it a great adhesive for glass and metal]

[Image changes to show a screw top jar of yellow coloured resin and text appears: We’ve patented this unique resin…]

[Image changes to show a close view of a researcher looking at the jar of resin and tilting it gently backwards and forwards and text appears: … and we’re on the lookout for commercial partners]

[New text appears: Get in touch to find out more!]

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo and text appears: CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency]

We’re paving the way for a new era of manufacturing with silicone, with the development of some unique silicone resins for making 3D printed medical parts.

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