Apr. 22, 2015 | By Alec

While a new model FDM 3D printer seems to be released just about once a week, the unveiling of other types of 3D printers are much rarer to find. That’s why we were very interested to learn about a new approach to ceramic 3D printing that has been developed by Oberlin, Ohio-based high quality 3D printing service provider HotEnd Works (or HeW). As company founder Benjamin Becker explained to 3ders.org, his company has developed a custom ceramic 3D printer called the HDfab™ Advanced Materials 3D Printer, which produces high resolution and high quality components using Pressurized Spray Deposition Technology (or PSD).

Now as you might know, ceramic 3D printing typically revolves around a custom FDM 3D printer that extrudes molten ceramic rather than plastic, which requires heating in an oven to harden after printing. But as the team from HotEnd Works explains, PSD technology can perhaps best be seen as a professional version of that approach. ‘Pressurized Spray Deposition technology fills the void between production-quality advanced ceramic components and current solutions requiring a post-fabrication infiltration process,’ they say. ‘PSD builds production-quality parts in quantities ranging between 1 and 500 using the highest performance, engineering-grade materials such as advanced ceramics. PSD is the undisputed leader in high strength ceramic parts in various ceramic materials such as alumina (Al2O3), silicon carbide (SiC), and aluminum nitride (AlN).’

That all sounds impressive, but how does it actually work? Well, as they explain, Pressurized Spray Deposition revolves around depositing two different materials on a printbed simultaneously: the parent material (the high quality ceramic powder) and a polymeric binding materal, that serves as a support material. ‘Powder and binder materials are fed from external hoppers into the dispensing chambers, and are then deposited at the precise X and Y positions as dictated by the part being formed,’ they explain.

These layers are deposited in a process that somewhat resembles FDM printing, but instead of just letting layers dry together, a polymeric matrix is applied at precise points between layers of powder. ‘In order to bond the powder material together and only at the intended area, a precision dispensing mechanism is used for the binding material in conjunction with computer-controlled paths.,’ the HeW team explains. The results are subsequently sintered.

The advantage of this approach is that it creates very dense and very pure ceramic materials (with a density of at least 98%). This means parts will be more precise and have a higher mechanical strength than what can be accomplished with other ceramic processing techniques. Optionally, the ceramic components can be further post processed to reach the optimal mechanical and visual qualities, though this will require grinding and hot isostatic pressing to increase density to 100%.

The HDfab™ Advanced Materials 3D Printer that uses this technology can apply PSD 3D printing to a variety of high quality ceramic powders, including: HotEnd Works Premium Alumina (AL2O3), Zirconia (ZrO2), Silicon Carbide (SiC), and Aluminum Nitride (AlN). Custom-made ceramic and metal materials can also be incorporated into the production process. The 3D printer itself prints layers at a resolution of 200 microns (deposition rate of 2.5 cc/min), with a maximum build volume of 8 x 8 x 8 inches. All this makes it a very interesting prototyping 3D printer, especially its ability to produce complex and highly detailed ceramic pieces in a single piece and in large qualities.

Now as you can imagine, such a high quality and unique 3D printer isn’t exactly marketed to the garage tinkerer. Expected to be priced at $55,000USD, it will doubtlessly be aimed at manufacturing businesses upon release in early 2016. But for that money, the 3D printer will come with custom control and slicing software, 10 pounds of HotEnd Works Premium Alumina (AL2O3) advanced ceramic material, 10 pounds of post-processing agent and a thermal post processing system as well.

For more information about the HDfab™ Advanced Materials 3D Printer, go to the website of HotEnd Works here. And if you can’t wait until early 2016, they do already offer PSD 3D printing as a service for users. If you’re looking to try that, you can go here to upload an STL file and be provided with a quote.



Posted in 3D Printers


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Jessica wrote at 5/6/2015 2:43:16 AM:

Yes the screw is a rendering. This demonstrates the type of prototype one can expect to print once available in 2016.

Jessica wrote at 5/6/2015 2:41:27 AM:

Yes it is a rendering. It was meant to show the type of parts you can expect with this 3D printer once available in 2016.

Larry wrote at 4/22/2015 6:14:59 PM:

That screw looks an awful lot like a rendering to me!

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