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K Fair 2016 Report: 3D Printing and Mass Customization

Jamie Carter
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3D printing is moving from prototyping to heralding a new era in customized production. This was the message last month at K Fair in Germany.

While it may have been over-hyped as a potential consumer product, 3D printing—better known in industry as additive manufacturing—was all the rage at Düsseldorf’s K Fair 2016. Many different 3D printing powders were launched, alongside some world firsts.

Beyond Prototypes

Until now, 3D printing has been viewed primarily as a way to develop prototypes quickly and affordably. According to the Consumer Technology Association, 2/3 of manufacturers already use it for product development. But the technology now appears to be maturing into an industrial process.

The core concept remains the same. Once a product design has been created using CAD, it can be produced almost immediately. This creates many opportunities for customization.

K Fair was the occasion to present the world’s first industrial 3D printer able to produce silicone rubber parts.

Munich-based materials and technology manufacturer Wacker Chemie‘s ACEO Imagine Series K printer uses a drop-on-demand method. The printer head deposits tiny silicone droplets on a substrate to build a workpiece layer by layer. The silicone is then vulcanized by UV light.

Courtesy of Wacker Chemie
Courtesy of Wacker Chemie

Courtesy of Wacker Chemie

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