Elastomer 3D: Award-winning research project
“I feel very honoured to receive this award on behalf of my Elastomer 3D project team and am delighted that the RCT committee has acknowledged the innovative and high-potential rubber printing”: Sebastian Leineweber used these words at this year’s International Elastomer Conference (IEC) to express his thanks for the award for his paper “Additive Manufacturing and Vulcanization of Carbon Black-filled Natural Rubber-based Components”.
Leineweber published the innovative process together with his project team back in 2021. In the publication, he presented the novel system technology and processing for free-form processing of conventional rubbers. In a presentation at the conference, he explained further potentials of this technology, for example selective laser vulcanization, which enables even more shape complexity and further degrees of freedom of the printed components.
New 3D printing process: Additive Manufacturing of Elastomers (AME)
With the development of Additive Manufacturing of Elastomers (AME), researchers have finally succeeded in processing materials from the rubber-based elastomers material group in 3D printing and additively manufacturing components from these materials layer by layer.
The procedure for this is divided into two process steps: In the first step, rubber layers are produced in the workspace using a twin-screw extruder, which works according to the derived fused filament fabrication principle. In the second step, the resulting component is vulcanized from several layers in a high-pressure hot-air autoclave in order to become dimensionally stable.
Best Paper Award: festive award ceremony in Cleveland
The results collected as part of the Elastomer 3D research project have been published in the journal “Rubber Chemistry and Technology” (RCT). The authors from the Institute of Transport and Automation Technology (ITA) and the DIK – Deutsches Institut für Kautschuktechnologie e. V (which literally translates into German Institute of Rubber Technology) were honored for their work at the International Elastomer Conference (IEC) in Cleveland in October 2023. They succeed Dayakar Penumadu, who received this award the year before.
The paper on the energy-efficient, resource-saving, sustainable, innovative elastomer process by Sebastian Leineweber and his colleagues impressed the international expert jurors and won the Best Paper Award, endowed with $2,000.
Future application: rubber 3D printing in industry
“The numerous night shifts at the institute were worth it for the prize, but this is not the end of the story!” emphasized Leineweber: The process knowledge gained can now be used for individual one-off rubber part production. The technology is already being used in the first handling-related industrial products, such as agile spare parts procurement.
However, it will be several years before there are affordable rubber 3D printers for private use that can be used to print action figures and bouncy balls at home.