What about 3D printing technical ceramics for the 2020’s
13 January 2020
“We are firmly convinced 3D printing will evolve to become a fully-fledged production tool able to take up the challenge of mass customization in opposition to traditional mass production” assure Richard Gaignon and Christophe Chaput, CEO of 3DCeram. The objective today is to strengthen 3DCeram’s position as a lead engineering company in additive manufacturing for high technology markets with high growth potential.
3D Ceram has been working for over 15 years to develop 3D printing of technical ceramics. The advantages of 3D printing for these materials are equivalent to those for metal or polymers. Namely building parts with optimized design for more efficient applications. For example, in aeronautics, a printed part allows more compact assemblies with a more optimal integration with the end goal of a significant reduction of the total mass. For other industries, the benefits will be different and that’s why 3D printing is interesting, it’s a flexible technology.
3D printing for technical ceramics opens new insights in terms of applications because of the design optimization which brings disruptive methods to remove limitations intrinsic to the traditional production tools (machining and so on). Our background in additive manufacturing market for all these years has allowed us to be in constant touch with all kind of demands from different types of customers. From this past, we have learned lessons and built up our knowledge to work on the maturation of the technology to answer industrial needs: a so-called mass production method which should be also flexible, otherwise known as customization. That’s why, we have developed the C3600 ULTIMATE, a new printer just launched to answer industrialization requirements in 3D printing technical ceramics. With its building platform of 600x600x300 mm, it is possible to print big parts or produce a large series of small identical or varied parts.
“We support our industrial customers from the beginning to the end of the 3D printing production chain. That means we study their ROI needs, a key indicator in production tool investments. So we have been able to put to the test the viability of mass production with additive manufacturing, it works!” attests Richard Gaignon.
At the same time, the R&D teams work tireless to develop new formulations to enhance resistance and properties of the printed parts, especially for the aerospace sector where the challenges are strategic, such as Si3N4 or AlN.
We believe 3D printing is fundamentally changing the spirit of production in the basic sense of the word. Concentrating on environmental issues, to produce the right quantity of parts with little or no waste, it is heading in the right direction as a relevant prototyping process that doesn’t involved any tooling. It will decrease the need for expensive stocking of multiple parts, enhancing the JIT system and custom part production process, in short, we are experiencing a revolution and it’s happening now…
Our prediction at 3DCeram is that the 3D printing will successfully pass the test steps to reach the production stage, especially in pioneer industries like biomedical and aerospace. To fulfill their expectations, it is necessary to have the right tools: the right printer, the C3600 ULTIMATE, the aftersales and training offers which allow the client to develop their skills and then reach the intended ROI. Major groups and pioneer firms have already purchased our printers to develop application solutions. As a proof of that, the number of patents registered lately has soared!
2020, a decisive decade for 3D printing
“The 2020s decade will probably end up with an integrated production line, which will allow users to
reach the desired quantities of products in high valued materials like silicon carbide (SIC) but also
hybrid parts printed with mixed materials. This printer already exists at 3DCeram, the C900 FLEX
HYBRID. This printer will also be integrated in the 4.0 production chain” forecasts Richard Gaignon
During the next decade 2020, additive manufacturing will be increasingly prevalent to become a
leading production tool. 3D printing perfectly fits the conception of the 4.0 Industry and will become
unavoidable. Manufacturers are getting to know 3D printing technologies and the possibilities, so the
education stage is behind us. They are now waiting for the maturation of additive manufacturing so
they could integrate it to their production pattern.
3DCeram works actively on this integrated production line. End of 2019, we have launched 2 new
printers, the C100 EASY, dedicated to prototyping needs and the development of productions on a
building platform of 100x100x150 mm. On the other hand, the C3600 ULTIMATE is for industrial
requirements. Both printers work on identical parameters to scale up from C100 EASY to C3600
ULTIMATE, which would encourage collaborative work between R&D and research centers and the
The success of an integrated production line implies improvements on several steps of the process.
From the STL file the optimization needs of the part for a rational and fast print can be guaranteed.
The first file stage is critical, and the software is more and more sophisticated and user-friendly.
Concerning the printing time of the part, this step has been substantially reduced and will be even
more reduced in the future.
The big step that will allow the most significant leap is the cleaning of the part. This stage opens up serious prospects for improvement. At 3DCeram we have a smart support call the Free link, which consist of supporting the parts without being physically attached. This make the part very easy to clean and saves any machining step to get rid of the support and sand the part. We are currently working to automate the cleaning stage because our technology now allows it!
In our project of the automated production line, once the part is cleaned, it goes in furnaces for debinding and sintering. All the process is supposed to unfold with minimum human action to achieve simplified production management in an integrated chain. The ceramic part is usually a component and its production process can be managed on an industrial pattern, experienced and well handled by manufacturers. 3D printing will bring the desired flexibility, concerning the materials, the technical ceramics and our R&D teams constantly developed to expand the range of formulations to provide the required solutions.
“Today, we have the main asset to meet the challenges of evolution in the field of 3D printing of technical ceramics, namely a consistent range of printers. We now have to go further, step by step, working on their integration into the production chain to achieve the customized production of which we dream! “