Soft robotics is a subfield of robotics that uses compliant materials. It mimics living organisms and adapts to its surroundings. For robots, it increases flexibility and adaptability.
The ACEO team from Wacher Chemie AG chose 3D printing for its soft robotic grippers because this technology lets designers customize the grippers into varying sizes, shapes and weights. The elastomer material is made from 100% silicone and can be used in food applications and also offers biocompatibility. It is based on Wacker Chemie AG silicone rubber technology.
Silicone elastomers are inorganic synthetic rubbers with unique combinations of chemical and mechanical properties such as hardness or color variation. Silicone is temperature-stable and media resistant. It comes in a nearly limitless array of color, including transparent and black grades. It can be formulated to conduct electricity or to insulate. Certified silicones are biocompatible, suitable for healthcare applications.
The ACEO team uses a 3D printing process based on a drop on demand principle. The print head deposits single silicone voxels on a building platform, which flow together smoothly, forming a homogeneous surface. After printing a layer, the curing is activated by a UV light. For designs with complex structures, overhangs and cavities, a support material is printed simultaneously.
The support material is easily removed with water. Then, the part is post-cured to get its final mechanical properties.
Wacker Chemie AG