A group of students from the Delft University (Holland), has managed to design and develop a method with which to get any desktop FFF type 3D printer to work with a material that is as coveted lately as silicone. To do this, first of all note that a series of modifications must be made to the architecture of our machine in order to later achieve, as demonstrated at the Science Fair held at the well-known university, proceed to use the technique named by themselves as'UltiCast'.
One of the first steps in using this technique is the need to create a soluble plastic mold or PVA. This mold will be silicone filling simultaneously throughout the manufacturing process. Once the silicone has cured, the object is placed in water and the plastic is diluted leaving only the piece of silicone. To get a prototype of this peculiar technology, the students have had to modify an Ultimaker 3D printer themselves, to which they have added a silicone dispensing system and its control software.
Thanks to this method, anyone can create objects with silicone from a 3D printer of the FFF type.
As a student group spokesperson has commented, the idea for this project lies in the need to find a way to manufacture soft robotic elements, mainly designed for hand prostheses, where having artificial fingers with a certain elasticity allows them to offer better performance to the user, compared to rigid prostheses.
As you can see in the video that is located just below these lines, the truth is that the possibilities offered by this project are quite wide since, if we go one step further, inside the silicone structure even rigid parts could be created that work like a skeleton. At the moment, the first application they have managed to create is a kind of robotic glove that has been specifically designed to help people with arthritis, local paralysis, limited movement abilities or in rehabilitation processes.