Form Ceram Offers Ceramic 3D Printing Services

Originally titled 'Ceramic 3D Printing Process for Solid Parts'

The lithography-based ceramic manufacturing process enables 3D printing of solid, smooth ceramic parts. 

Form Ceram, the technical ceramics unit of Steinbach AG, provides manufacturing services using a process developed for 3D printing ceramic parts. The lithography-based ceramic manufacturing (LCM) process begins with a slurry of ceramic powder and UV-sensitive monomer. UV exposure causes polymerization, turning the liquid slurry into a solid. The thermal processes of debinding and sintering, typically at temperatures exceeding 800°C, remove the polymer and consolidate the ceramic particles. During the debinding process, the polymer decomposes and outgasses. After sintering, the result is an airtight ceramic component with a smooth surface.

The LCM additive process is said to enable complex ceramic geometries, and the material enables higher stresses than polymers. Technical ceramic components exhibit high mechanical, chemical, thermal and electrical resistance, and by definition they are inorganic, nonmetallic materials that are at least 30 percent crystaline.

Form Ceram manufactures parts from aluminum oxide (Al2O3) and zirconium oxide (ZrO2) ceramic materials. The effective bounding box is 61 × 34 × 117 mm for aluminum oxide and 56 × 31 × 110 mm for zirconium oxide. These values reduce the shrinkage during sintering, the company says.

The LCM process is useful for creating analysis and measurement equipment, corrosion-resistant parts for the chemical industry, micro-electronics and protection devices for sensors. It is also useful for high-temperature applications and plasma technology. LCM enables prototyping in the quality expected in large-scale production, as well as in single-item and small-series production, reducing time to market, the company says. It can achieve tolerances of ±0.1 mm, surface roughness of 0.4 Ra without postprocessing, and more than 99 percent of theoretical density.