Ceramic additive manufacturing – evolution and revolution

One of the most recent studies into ceramic additive manufacturing (AM) predicts a global market value – including applications – of $3 billion by 2027. This is clearly a story of remarkable innovation, excitement and growth, particularly once further improvements are made to feedstock materials, machine systems and the specialist supply chain required to serve this novel technology sector.

3D printed CEX

There are many attractions to ceramic AM, amongst which are tool-free component production, price competitiveness at low volume, the ability to produce complex geometries, near-net-shape production, scalability, and the broadening of possibilities for novel component design and manufacture.

Often sub-assemblies can be eliminated and installation is simplified. It is also a great tool for rapid prototyping, enabling companies to bring products more quickly to market, on the one hand, and helping manufacturers of large/complex parts to avoid the need for repeated expensive tooling, especially following modification, on the other.

3d printedA variety of materials have been specially developed for this process, and there are a number of different techniques employed. These can include 3D printing, stereolithography (SLA), and selective laser sintering, which are layer-to-layer, and have been used to produce parts in alumina, aluminum nitride, zirconia, hydroxyapatite and some silicon carbides. Alternatively, a combination of materials can be deposited in the same layer – via robocasting, extrusion, inkjet printing and so on.

A number of these important technologies will be on show at Ceramics Expo 2018, where visitors will be able to discuss the latest developments in binder-jetting, nanoparticle printing, ceramic filament manufacturing, microextrusion etc.

All the major end-user industries for ceramics are taking a keen interest in AM, not only because it makes it simpler – and sometimes more cost-effective – to produce certain components, but also because it unlocks untold potential for new designs and customization on a grand scale.

Already, both prototypes and production parts have been introduced for the medical instrument, biomedical, dental, aerospace, automotive, defense, electronics, energy (including solar), chemical and foundry industries. From a microdispensing nozzle to a power turbine casting core, from a microlattice to a burner component, from a complex scaffold to a sand core, this technology presents a wealth of opportunities.

One could say that the flexibility offered by ceramic AM is reflected by the fact that while it has the potential to produce small ceramics on a large scale, it can also produce large ceramics on a small scale.


Conference @ Ceramics Expo

Ceramic AM promises to be one of the highlights of Conference @ Ceramics Expo. Here are some sessions you won’t want to miss:

1 May, Track 2, 3pm

Reviewing the Function of Polymeric Additives in Conventional Processing and Additive Manufacturing of Ceramics to Optimize Structure of the Final Part

This session will review the function of polymeric additives in conventional processing and additive manufacturing of ceramics by looking at the following stages: evaluating binder addition levels and the role of wetting on binder behavior; reviewing resin-based binder systems for binder-jetting additive manufacturing; and understanding the role of atmosphere on binder removal.


3 May, Track 2, 11.30am

Developing Multi-Ceramics 3D Printing Technology for the Industrial Production of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells

The Cell3ditor EU project aims at developing a 3D printing process for mass production of monolithic SOFC stacks without joints and sealing. A multi-material 3D printer has been developed to enable mass production of all SOFC stacks in a single printing step. This printer combines stereolithography and micro-extrusion printing in a single machine for a sequential application of different materials during the printing process.


3 May, Track 2, 12pm

Reviewing Scale-Up of Binder Jet Ceramic Additive Manufacturing

Johnson Matthey has developed the capability to 3D print ceramics using a binder-jet technique. This presentation details JM’s 10-year development journey from the initial R&D scoping exercises, through prototyping, to full-scale production in JM’s newly commissioned facility. From light-weighting parts used in the aerospace industry, to the optimization of fluid flow via the design of complex catalyst supports and the use of customized components in medical applications, this technology has a lot to offer.


3 May, Track 2, 1pm

Industry Discussion on Additive Manufacturing: If We Had a Crystal Ball…

This looks at the potential of the market and also the barriers to success, providing key insights by looking at more mature additive manufacturing supply chains such as the polymer and metal additive manufacturing industries. This is followed by a panel of industry experts sharing their vision on where the field will be in the future. If we had a crystal ball, where would we see the field going in the next 5-10 years and beyond – where will the technology be, and why will it take that amount of time to get there?



Don’t miss these Ceramics Expo exhibitors that are involved in ceramic AM:

3DCeram – booth 257

3DCeram offers rapid custom ceramic component prototyping and volume production service; a 3D ceramic printing system consisting of a printer, its consumables and associated assist services; and a custom ceramics formulations service.


Admatec Europe – booth 448 

Admatec was an early service provider for printing high-density ceramic components, using its in-house developed ADMAFLEX technology. In addition, it launched the Admaflex 130 3D ceramic printer for commercial use. Zirconia, alumina and fused silica are currently available, and as a result of constant R&D work additional materials will follow.


Ceramco Inc – booth 242

Additive manufacturing is the most recent addition to Ceramco’s manufacturing methods for the production of ceramic parts. Unlike any of Ceramco’s low-pressure or high-pressure injection molding methods (LPIM, HPIM or microPIM), 3D printing overcomes the problem of die lock often encountered in complex geometries.


Johnson Matthey – booth 546

Johnson Matthey recently opened a new state-of-the-art ceramic 3D printing facility in the UK. Currently JM produces bespoke ceramic products with flexible geometries and feature sizes down to just 400µm. This 3D printing process offers a cost effective solution for producing small complex ceramics on a large scale. The new R&D laboratory enables JM to develop a greater understanding of 3D printing; characterizing powders and inks to allow faster development and more effective solutions.


Lithoz GmbH – booth 428

Lithoz is the system provider for additive manufacturing of high-performance ceramics. The company developed LCM technology, which facilitates the production of very delicate structures and fine details directly from CAD data. Lithoz covers the whole process chain from the development of the machine, to the materials, up to application.


EnvisionTEC / Viridis3D – booth 353

The Robotic Additive Manufacturing systems from EnvisionTEC and Viridis3D are providing fast, flexible robotic 3D printing options in the foundry and 3D printing industries. Using a patent-pending technology, a proprietary print head attached to an ABB robot arm uses exclusive binder jetting technology to print sand molds, mold cores and investment casting patterns for foundry applications. The proprietary systems include easy-to-use Viriprint software that uses a CAD file to print a mold and core in just a few hours.


XJet Ltd – booth 210

XJet’s Carmel product portfolio represents a transformation in the ceramic AM industry, by printing ultrafine layers of NanoParticle ‘inks’. The technology uses dispersion at the nano level to simultaneously print build and support materials, achieving freedom of design for the most complex shapes. Ceramic parts produced on this system enjoy superfine details, smooth surfaces and high accuracy due to the unique printing process.


Saint-Gobain High Performance Ceramics & Refractories – booth 246

Saint-Gobain recently acquired Spin-Works International Corp, an innovative producer of highly complex ceramic burner components. Its SpyroCor Insert is placed into a radiant tube to capture and re-radiate exhaust gas energy into the furnace. The innovative AmaSiC-3D manufacturing platform enables geometries previously impossible with ceramic materials.


Nanoe – booth 304 

Nanoe is launching Zetamix – a filament for ceramic filament manufacturing (CFM). This filament comprises a polymer matrix and a zirconia toughened alumina powder, which can be used in any FDM 3D printer. Afterwards, the printed shape is debinded and sintered in the same processes as ceramic injection molding. CFM is very affordable; with an investment of less than $2,000, customers will be able to start producing some parts, and learn to use this technology. Pre-orders for Zetamix will be taken at Ceramics Expo and the first deliveries are expected to be in September.