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.
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.
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.
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.