ByFlow can now 3D print silicones in high quality

At FabLab Maastricht we do our research with te help of interns from different backgrounds: industrial product design, mechatronics, egineering etc. The research is combined with the needs of organisations in our region like the ceramic industry, rubber, etc.

In this case dentist / research Frans de Beer from the academic hospital of Maastricht asked us if it would be possible to 3D print silicone prothetics like the ones below. Now they are partially made by hand and by using a 3D scanner and 3D printer. After scanning the face the design is adapted and eventually returned (from right ear to left ear f.e.), the mold is printed in wax, the silicone is mixed in the right colours (20 different colours!) and then put in the mold. After drying in the oven an artist will paint small blood vessels etc on it. You can imagine this is an expensive production of thousands of Euro's. And each patient needs at least two of them each year, one for the winter and one for the summer (darker skin) and after several months the colour disappears by the UV light in the sun.

facial prothetic made by

Jan de Cubber, academic hospital Maastricht

Bart Beckers, intern industrial product design, started with internet research. No printer could print with silicones at September 2014. Later on 2 companies announced that they would enter the market with such a printer, one can do this also with medical silicones but the price is extreme high: 150.000,-E)

Dietmar Auhl (material expert at Maastricht University) and Bart recieved lots of information about medical silicones from Jan de Cubber (expert in silicone prothetics at azM). Dietmar did some research in databases and academic literature.

Bart made 11 different concepts for the printing head and made one to test. This one uses very acurate syringes in the paste extruder. After testing it was changed by Floris Hoff.

Two different 3D printers have been used, an old one and the new ByFlow. The old one could print with silicones but the ByFlow was ofcause more accurate. The quality is almost the same as the printer of 150.000,-E (the ByFlow costs 2500,-E).

Several ears and noses have been printed. Extreme angles are possible without support material.

The difference between medical silicones and silicones from the shop have been tested by Maastricht University: almost the same. Probably you pay for the guarantee that the quality is consistent and the material clean.

Results: we can print now silicones with a layer thickness of 0,5mm. Excellent for most purposes, not good enough for ears because of the sharp angles. More research is needed for this.

For the layer between an upper leg and a prothetic leg it could be a nice solution. Strong material but very comfortable. Multicolour is not needed here.

If you have other applications please let us know!

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