Dec 11, 2015 | By Kira
Tethon 3D, leading manufacturer of ceramic powders, binders, and other 3D printing services and supplies, has just filed a US utility patent application for a 3D printer design that incorporates compression into a powder/binder-jet 3D printer, significantly improving the strength of 3D printed ceramics and potentially other powder materials.
Compared to other 3D printing materials, such as thermoplastics and even metal alloys, ceramic has remained a relatively small 3D printing material market. That’s because it can be somewhat trickier to deal with, requiring glazes, binders, and a high-temperature kiln to properly set. However, ceramic 3D prints do offer marked benefits—along with being food safe, the material is recyclable, heat resistant, and can create beautiful, organic designs.
Nebraska-based Tethon 3D has been at the forefront of ceramic 3D printing, having developed its own Tethonite Ceramic Powder for Zcorp/3D Systems 3D printers, as well as the Tethon3D Ceramic Liquid Binder. In addition, the company provides resources and workshops to educate consumers about 3D printing with ceramic, and has a portfolio of 3D printed ceramic sculptures and products (we previously wrote about the Cool Brick, which was 3D printed in ceramic with Tethon’s help).
The company’s new 3D printer design incorporates a compression plate that physically compresses the contents of the build bed at regular intervals throughout the fabrication process. As Gregh Pugh, Director of Technical Operations at Tethon 3D, explained to 3Ders.org, this proprietary design actually simulates the process of hand-building traditional ceramic, porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware products.
“Physical compression is essential for increasing the strength of clay and the resulting ceramic objects. We thought about what gives clay its strength in manufacturing today and how we can use these valuable techniques in 3D printing.”
“The idea was born to solve a problem,” Pugh continued. “The current powder-jet binder 3D printers are not ideal for ceramics. Tethon 3D had already developed and patented Tethonite cermic 3D printing powder, and the next logical step was to improve the 3D printer hardware. Our goal was to design a powder-based 3D printer that was technically optimized specifically for ceramics.”
President and CEO Karen Linder added that the company’s studies showed increased strength in 3D printed ceramics that had never before been achieved, making this IP a “significant advancement in the field of ceramic additive manufacturing.”
Tethon, by the way, is the word for ‘White Buffalo’ in the language of the Omaha tribe of Native Americans. The animal exists in nature, though it is exceptionally rare. Tethon 3D is a corporate member of the American Ceramic Society and the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.
The company has built a prototype 3D printer based on this compression-integrating technique, and is currently evaluating potential engineering partners to bring to the technology to market, with the ultimate goal of advancing the ceramics 3D printing industry and making it somewhat less of a ‘white buffalo’.
Posted in 3D Printer
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