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US researchers hail a breathrough in ceramics 3D printing

05 January 2016

Researchers in the US have demonstrated an approach to additively manufacture ceramics that overcomes the limits of traditional ceramic processing.

The resulting material can withstand temperatures in excess of 1,700°C (photo: HRL Laboratories/Dan Little Photography)

Researchers at HRL Laboratories, based in Malibu, California, have achieved a new milestone in 3D printing technology by demonstrating an approach to additively manufacture ceramics that overcomes the limits of traditional ceramic processing and enables high temperature, high strength ceramic components.

HRL’s senior chemical engineer, Zak Eckel and senior chemist Dr Chaoyin Zhou have created a resin formulation that can be 3D printed into parts of virtually any shape and size. The printed resin can then be fired, converting it into a high strength, fully dense ceramic. The resulting material can withstand temperatures in excess of 1,700°C and has a strength ten times greater than similar materials.

Ceramics are much more difficult to process than polymers or metals because they cannot be easily cast or machined. Traditionally, ceramic parts are consolidated from powders by sintering, which introduces porosity and limits both achievable shapes and final strength.

"With our new 3D printing process we can take full advantage of the many desirable properties of this silicon oxycarbide ceramic, including high hardness, strength and temperature capability, as well as resistance to abrasion and corrosion," says programme manager, Dr Tobias Schaedler.

The novel process and material could be used in a wide range of applications from large components in jet engines and hypersonic vehicles to intricate parts in microelectromechanical systems and electronic device packaging.

A research paper is published in the January 1st edition of the journal, Science.

HRL is currently seeking a commercialisation partner for this technology and invites interested parties to email: innovation@hrl.com


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