With over a century of expertise in the chemicals industry, global giant Wacker Chemie AG is no stranger to pioneering the field of materials’ research, including silicone. However, the prospect of using additive manufacturing to produce silicone parts has long posed a challenge for the industry, due in part to the high viscosity of the material. A challenge, that is, until 2016: when ACEO®, a brand of WACKER, unveiled the world’s first 3D printed elastomer.
So how is ACEO® using AMFG to create a seamless, automated workflow from request to delivery?
Since its launch of the first ever 100% silicone 3D printing technology, ACEO® has continued to be at the forefront of the silicone 3D printing revolution. However, ACEO®’s innovative technology raised an interesting question: what would be the best way to enable customers to request their very own, high-quality silicone parts and prototypes?
“One of our primary aims at ACEO® is to create a seamless journey that makes requesting 3D printed silicone parts both easy and reliable,” says Judith Distelrath, Project Office Manager at ACEO®.
To make the ordering parts as simple as possible for users, ACEO® first needed an efficient way to automate and streamline its request process. Production processes would need also to be streamlined, particularly as the nature of the silicone printing process makes it impossible to rework the product if a problem arises.
Considering the sensitive nature of the data at hand, and the fact that IT security at WACKER is of the highest standard, data security was also a highly important criterion for ACEO®. Guaranteeing the confidentiality of all personal and project data relating to users was therefore crucial. And, like many companies, ACEO® uses ERP software as part of its day-to-day operations. Any solution would, therefore, need to integrate with ACEO®’s ERP system of choice — SAP.
Clearly, an innovative technology called for an equally innovative solution — which is why ACEO® opted for AMFG.
The first step in implementing AMFG was to identify all of ACEO®’s key needs and execute an agile plan of action to deploy changes. Following an extended period of consultation, which included regular workshops and project plan updates, AMFG could then be fully integrated into ACEO®’s system.
Now, using AMFG’s online web portal, users can create their own, private, account and either send a written request detailing the nature of their project or upload their CAD files for analysis directly. This process takes only a few minutes. The files are automatically converted to STL and auto-analysis and repair tools automate the verification process for important parameters such as wall thickness.
By automating the request and project management process in this way, ACEO®’s design and engineering teams can quickly evaluate a file’s printability before sending the user a quote and forwarding the order to the operations team for production. This saves a significant amount of time.
On the customer side, AMFG provides a secure log-in account for customers, complete with an overview of account details and purchase history. AMFG has also adhered to ACEO®’s security requirements, giving customers the assurance that their details remain secure throughout the process.
Additionally, ACEO® made use of AMFG’s third-party integration option through its full integration with SAP.
Since implementing AMFG, ACEO® has been able to provide a smooth digital workflow, from request to quotation and delivery. This means a better user experience for ACEO®’s customers, who are able to choose the parameters of their parts – from material to shore hardness and colour – in only a few clicks.
Projects can also be tracked through an online dashboard, which AMFG has set up according to ACEO®’s specific requirements, providing full visibility and open communication.
Looking ahead, ACEO® is merely at the start of its mission to transform additive manufacturing production for silicone parts. The brand has recently reached another major milestone with the development of its multi-material silicone 3D printing technology, which produces parts with integrated functionality, such as electrical conductivity.
Clearly, the potential of silicone 3D printing is endless — and ACEO® will continue to pave the way.
Images courtesy of ACEO®.