The CSIRO has developed a next generation silicone resin for making 3D printed medical parts, heralding a new era of manufacturing with silicone.
A relative newcomer to the global 3D print market, silicone has great potential for 3D printing and is estimated to be worth over $124.4 billion by 2026.
But as a new technology it has challenges that need to be overcome, namely low resolution and slow speed.
Current silicone resins are also restricted for use on specialised printers, which can be expensive according to CSIRO polymer chemist Dr Ke Du.
To solve these issues, Du and her colleagues have developed a series of new silicone products.
“Our unique biocompatible resins boast a suite of excellent attributes,” Du said.
“What’s more, they can be used with off-the-shelf printers without the need for modification.”
The resins are non-cytotoxic and are capable of printing complex designs in high resolution, including irregular shapes, thin walls and hollow structures.
The printed silicone parts produced with the resins have tuneable mechanical properties, making them customisable for different applications.
The resins 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.
“We believe the resins may even help fast track prototyping some of these biomedical devices,” CSIRO Biomedical Polymer Chemistry Group team leader Dr Tim Hughes said.
Parts made with the resins are super soft and have great compressive elasticity and high transparency.
The silicone resins work 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 possibly with modification in other photocurable 3D printers, such as inkjet and extrusion.
A surprising novel feature is the resin’s superglue properties. The research team discovered the resins can easily affix glass and metal, paving the way for a new market as a construction adhesive.
The CSIRO team has patented their novel silicone resins and they are seeking industrial partners to help commercialise the product.