By Benjamin Becker | Dec.12, 2012

Traditional manufacture of ceramics is a process that has long lead times, typically in excess of 8 to 12 weeks. When using traditional manufacturing methods in fabrication of ceramics, complex geometries such as a hollow sphere are impossible to create or are prohibitively expensive and therefore not feasible. Expensive post processing of the ceramics is often required either to create intended geometries that could not be created in the initial machining state, or to bring the part within the design's tolerance. Investment in carbide or diamond tooling and fixturing is often necessary in order to create certain features on the ceramic part, both before and after firing the material. Small quantity orders are often extremely expensive and accompanied by long lead times which can delay projects relying on the properties of ceramic components.

Ceramic 3D printing offers engineering-grade ceramic components in 90% less time than traditional ceramics. Typical turn around can be in as little as five days depending on complexity of the part. This not only allows for faster time to market, but also allows for more iterations during the design process resulting in a better end product. Materials used in rapid ceramics range from less hard alumina ceramics (aluminum oxide filler) to very hard and abrasion resistant zirconia ceramics (zirconium silicate filler). These ceramics can withstand between 2800 F (1538 C) and 3200 F (1760 C) working temperatures, and have a dielectric strength of 150 volts per mil. The alumina ceramic material is extremely abrasion resistant, corrosion resistant, and has excellent mechanical performance.

Alumina ceramics typical characteristics include:

  • High strength and stiffness
  • Excellent hardness and wear resistance
  • High resistance to corrosion
  • Excellent thermal stability at high temperatures
  • Good dielectric strength in large frequency ranges

Typical applications of Alumina ceramics are:

  • Nozzles in abrasive environments such as sandblasting
  • High Temperature environment such as shielding gas cups for welding equipment
  • Corrosive environments such as a housing for knock sensors in automotive applications
  • High wear applications such as bearing surfaces exposed to abrasive media

With ceramic 3D printing, parts can be made semi-hollow allowing for weight reduction while saving on the cost of the part because of the reduction in material used. Secondary operations such as addition of threaded inserts are possible as they can be inserted during fabrication of the ceramic components. Ceramic 3D printing perform at the same level as their traditional ceramic counterparts and are capable of being used in a production environment.

(The ceramic materials that we are currently testing in our lab. | photo courtesy of Benjamin Becker)

In part two of our series, we will discuss how to effectively design with ceramics and the tolerances that can be expected with ceramics in an "as-fired" state.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology


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Hansen wrote at 3/14/2013 10:04:28 PM:

very interested as well... is it possible to buy a commercial powder and binder for a ZCorp 310 printer?

Benjamin Becker wrote at 2/28/2013 2:45:41 AM:

We offer samples on our website at If you are looking for a specific sample we can accommodate that request also.

andreas nicholas wrote at 2/15/2013 7:30:09 AM:

very interested in this, where can I get samples? I have been trying to research ceramic aided filaments for a school project.

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