Californian company HRL Laboratories has developed a method of 3D printing ceramics with similarities to stereolithography, with the resultant parts possessing high strength and extreme heat resistance.
Detailed in a paper in Science magazine this month, the team’s “pre-ceramic”, silicon carbide resin is set using ultraviolet light, with parts – which can be of significant complexity – then fired overnight in a kiln at 1,000 degrees Celsius.
"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," said program manager Dr Tobias Schaedler, according to phys.org.
Ceramic additive manufacturing has been around for some time, notes 3ders.org. However, due to the extrusion method that parts have been made in, objects suffer from porosity and therefore cracking and strength issues.
The silicon carbide parts, however, are claimed to be fully dense, possess ten times the strength of previous 3D printed ceramics, and require no machining after production.
They also have low thermal conductivity, and can reportedly withstand temperatures of 1,400 degrees Celsius. HRL’s invention is being touted as having significant promise for aerospace manufacturing.