BOSTON—Applications for the rapidly growing 3D printing industry include the ability to make hearing aids and jewelry, manufacture parts for NASA and replicate a human kidney.
And as the industry advances in technology and application, so do the capabilities for silicone molders.
Massachusetts-based Albright Silicone is one such forward-looking firm, recently disclosing the development of a lower cost, more rapid turnaround process for prototype 3D liquid silicone rubber molding, allowing customers to save on the bottom line in research, development and, ultimately, production costs, the company said.
"It's a similar process to what we've done in the past with our aluminum molding—it's just additive versus subtractive molding," said Cole Vincequere, project engineer for the firm's new 3D printing process. "It allows customers who perhaps don't have the funding or time to develop a final product. We can hit difficult geometries with this process and we can produce it rapidly to try to cut down lead time for the customer."
According to Matt Bont, product manager at Albright Silicone, the process offered by Albright can be a more efficient option—as opposed to more traditional RTV or TPE printing—for customers who are seeking a small number of parts for initial testing, but who may not be ready for metal tooling.
"Having strong communications between supplier and customer is key," Bont said. "We want the best recommendations from our customers to help push the part forward. We need to understand the production state and where the customer is in the research and design and development process."