Ceramic 3D printing

In December ’12 Formatec introduced the ceramic printing technology. The overwhelming interest in the technology encouraged Formatec to continue developments in this new field of expertise.

In order to continue the developments at the right pace technology partners ECN and Innotech Europe joined the project. Shortly after the project name Admatec was defined. Admatec develops a wide range of printing solutions for ceramics. Material, machine and process developments are all done within the group.

It is the absolute aim to become the market leader for printing ceramic materials. In order to fulfill this aim efficiently Formatec uses the Admaflex ceramic 3D printers, offered by Admatec Europe. Adding Admatec’s Admaflex Technology to the project completely underlines the strong commitment to become a market leader in this field of expertise.

Development of printing technologies continues within the group as well. The in-house developed Admaflex Technology emerged on several fundamental points. Main focus is to break down limitations on precision, building size and building speed. Secondly material research is a critical development factor. Reducing costs and widening the range of materials are clear objectives. These material developments will not be limited to ceramics, on the middle long-term a pre-defined range of metals will be developed as well, while the process is suitable for all powder materials.

At this stage detailed technical information of the process cannot be shared due to proprietary considerations.

Together with the technology developments, Admatec explores new market segments with the Admaflex 130 and the recently launched Admaflex 300. With these printers Admatec can supply small/precise parts, but also larger parts in higher volume. The market seems to be discovering this technology sooner than expected, resulting in challenging requirements on a frequent basis.

Admaflex 130 ceramic 3D printer

The CAD model of a product is divided into layers through dedicated slicing software. These laters are being projected by a DLP-chip at the bottom of the printer’s reservoir. This reservoir is filled with a combination of photopolymer resin and ceramic powder. Due to the projection the photopolymer is being cured, followed by an up-movement of the Z-axis in order for the next layer to be built.

Once all layers are finished, the product is built of a ceramic and polymer mixture, that is similar to a green injection molded part. All, for Formatec, usual process steps such as debind and sintering has to be performed to obtain fully functional ceramics.

The Admaflex 130
Formatec uses the Admaflex 130 as one of their production methods to make small, high precision ceramics;

 Unit  Value
 Resolution  µm  35-62.5
 Layer thickness  µm  10 – 200
 Speed  layers/h  up to 300
 DLP Chip  pixels  1920 x 1080
 Building platform*  mm  96 x 54 x 110
 mm  90 x 56 x 110
 mm  160 x 100 x 110

*Depending on the light source (full HD or WQXGA)

This technology is aiming for three type of market segments in multiple industries. Such as high tech components for machine asssembly, medical parts for medical applications and implants, heat exchangers, Aerospace and many more.

Typical market segments are:

Producing ceramic prototypes are a costly and time consuming process using traditional available technologies. Applying the AM technology a lot size of one can be applied and the throughput time is considerably shorte than conventional methods.  Moreover, costly technologies as grinding and/or mould manufacturing do not need to be applied.

Typically prototypes are used during the design phase. Using the print technology it is very cost effective to apply changes to the design.

Small scale series production
This technology will be applied in small series production. Batch sizes just greater than the usual batch size for grinding applications and not big enough for ceramic injection moulding will find a application with print technology. Typical parts will have a complex design, highly accurate and relative small size.

Serie production
These products that are just not able to be produced with any of the current available technologies. Undercuts, complex shaped cooling channels, thin wall, mesh shaping, are just a few examples that can not be shaped with any of the traditional technologies in ceramics. For these designs the printing technology will be used for production purposes.

Technology Advantages / Disadvantages

 No tooling costs  Limited product thickness +/- 2.5mm
 Series production for complex shaped products  Relative slow production process
 Prototype with full functional properties  Limited selection of material availibility
 Extreme high freedom of design  Engineer support structures might apply (depending on design)
 No costs for design changing
 High precision through high resolution
 Rapid throughput times


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