Company 3D prints ceramics that can withstand 1,700°C

Posted on 4 Jan 2016 by Callum Bentley

Researchers at US-based, HRL Laboratories LLC, 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 invented a resin formulation that can reportedly 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 ultrahigh temperatures in excess of 1,700°C and exhibits strength ten times higher than similar materials.

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

Programme manager, Dr Tobias Schaedler commented: “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.”

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.

HRL is currently looking for a commercialisation partner for the technology.