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SECTORS & APPLICATIONS

With their outstanding properties, ceramics prove their potential applications and particular advantages in any industry day after day. Applications range from mechanical and electrical engineering to aviation and space travel. But high-performance ceramics also find application in the medical field more and more frequently.

The root of this array of application possibilities of high-performance ceramics is based on the particular material properties of ceramic raw materials. Ceramic is often referred to as the raw material of tomorrow. It is more powerful and robust than other materials in many respects and thus clearly sets itself apart from other materials.

 

The following properties especially distinguish ceramic material:

  • high temperature stability
  • high corrosion resistance
  • high wear resistance
  • excellent tribological properties
  • low density
  • high degree of hardness
  • minimal thermal expansion
  • good electrical and thermal insulation effect
  • excellent biocompatibility

 

APPLICATION OF CERAMICS IN INDUSTRY AND RESEARCH

Ceramic Materials are put to use in a number of technological processes. Compared to other, conventional raw materials, high-performance ceramics are often less apparent in everyday life. Often, they serve their purpose as highly specific components within a machine or as autonomous products in environments where other materials fail. The fields of application range from the chemical industry (e.g. micro reactors), through special machine construction (e.g. components for textile machines), electronics (e.g. functional ceramics), medical technology (e.g. implants) and jewelry (e.g. watchcases) to household items (e.g. high-end spice grinders).

 


Below, you will find some application examples that offer a glimpse into the possibilities and applications of additively manufactured ceramics.

TGA-Crucible: High-performance ceramics for thermal analytics

Starting Point:
Highly purified ceramics are predominantly used as sample holders or receptacles in the thermic analysis of raw materials, e.g. crucibles or pans. Thermogravimetry (TGA) is the process of measuring the loss in mass of a sample at increasing temperatures, caused, for example, by vaporization of volatile matter. It is required to have even heat distribution around the sample and constant air circulation to allow waste gas dissipation.

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Due to conventional manufacturing methods, currently available sample holders have a very basic form, usually cup-shaped, and thus generate concentrated waste gas and heat-accumulation at the base of the cup. Phenomena such as this, caused by sample holders, can eventually influence the measurement results.

Project LabCer (Vienna University of Technology, Lithoz):

Challenges:

  • miniaturization and highly complex geometries realizable only with great effort when using conventional manufacturing techniques
  • highly purified and stable ceramic raw materials are required
  • appropriate mechanical properties with high-temperature applications
  • high costs due to design variations in the trial phase

 

Solution:

  • design and production of complex crucible geometries using LCM-technology
  • material: Lithalox HP500, high purity alumina
 

Advantages:

  • production of highly complex geometries easily realizable with the CeraFab 7500
  • due to tool-free simultaneous production no increase in expenses compared to conventionally obtainable “basic” crucibles
  • Lithalox HP500 as highly purified alumina is chemically inert and has mechanical properties suitable for the necessary complex geometries of the crucible.
 

 

Conclusion by Prof. Jürgen Stampfl, TU Wien, Inst. of Materials Science:
„Mit dem LCM-Verfahren sind wir in der Lage, qualitativ herausragende keramische Bauteile herzustellen, die bei uns routinemäßig als Tiegel für die thermische Analyse zum Einsatz kommen. Zusätzlich zur Erfüllung der qualitativen Anforderungen ermöglicht LCM auch eine deutlich ökonomischere Fertigung im Vergleich zu bisherigen Herstellverfahren.“

Jewel Bracelet made of High-Performance Ceramics

Starting Point:

Established Viennese souvenirs quite often lack in finesse, contemporary design demands and esprit. But Vienna has more to offer than Mozart, Sissy and Klimt. The city requires souvenirs which reflect the diversity as well as the innovative and trendsetting mindset of Vienna.

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Viennese Souvenir Project:

With her project, Désirée Heusl developed a charm bracelet with small and very detailed pendants reflecting the uniqueness of Vienna. May it be the city´s landmarks, your favorite coffee-house, a legendary club or a traditional dish – for each of the unique Viennese characteristics a ceramic pendant can be collected. Finally, you can assemble the individual charms on your bracelet and take with you the impressions and experiences of your trip to Vienna.

Challenges:

  • Material reflects the innovative character of Vienna and features exceptional wearing comfort
  • Development of unbreakable and very detailed 3-dimensional geometries
  • Fast and cost efficient production of different pendants
  • Development of a stringent material concept
 

Solution:

  • Production of pendants and chain links with the LCM-Technology of Lithoz
  • Material: High-purity alumina
 

Benefits:

  • Fast and cost efficient realisation of various geometries
  • Due to exceptional material properties of high-performance ceramics the produced parts feature highest toughness with very fine details
  • Development of a stringent material concept through integration of 3D-printed chain link segments
  • Extraordinary wearing comfort due to exceptional material properties of high-performance ceramics (hypoallergenic)
  • Material and process symbolize the innovative power of Vienna

 

Conclusion by Désirée Heusl:
“As an Industrial Design Student it is in general very interesting for me to experiment with different materials and manufacturing processes. Particularly the new innovative digital manufacturing technologies offer exciting possibilities. For my project the cooperation with Lithoz was a unique possibility to combine these new technologies with traditional jewellery.”  

Chemical process engineering

A New Type of Static Mixer with Variable Channel Design

Starting Point:

In order to mix two or more components together, static mixers are used for many areas of chemical processes and techniques. Concerning microsystems the focus is on minimizing the diffusion path and the total volume of the component.

Ceramics offer excellent properties in high temperature resistance as well as chemical resistance.

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Challenges:

  • production of structures with highly complex internal geometry using high-performance ceramics
  • implementation of supply systems for the distribution of different materials
 

Solution:

  • To reduce the diffusion paths for the mixed materials after exiting the structure, different designs have been developed. These designs are based on honeycombs in which the various materials flow through adjacent channels and are thus finely dispersed.
  • By introducing cut-outs between the channels and flow guiding elements inside the channels mixing can already be accomplished within the structure. Alternatively, the channel diameters can also be varied.
  • Production of the structures with the LCM-Technology of Lithoz and the corresponding alumina suspensions
 

Benefits:

  • Realization of high-performance ceramic components with a complexity that could not be produced until now
  • The change of the channel diameter also achieves a change in speed, and this results in a relative change of pressure (reduction of cross section > increase in speed > decrease of pressure)
  • In combination with the adjacent channel, which has its maximum diameter in the area of the connection, the mixing between these channels takes place due to the pressure difference.

 

Conclusion: Dipl.-Ing. Uwe Scheithauer:

„The LCM-Technology of Lithoz makes it possible to produce high-performance ceramic components with geometries that were not feasible before.”

Medical technology

Pneumatic intracardiac-catheder-pump with high-performance ceramics

Starting Point:

Currently available heart pumps use an electrical power unit (stimulus) which leads to heat development causing possible damage of blood vessels.

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Projekt Assistocor (TU Wien, MedUni Vienna):

  • Manufacturing of a mechanical heart pump with a helium gas power unit
  • Hermetic decoupling of power unit and pump part
  • Significant increase of pump capacity of the heart
  • Temporary, (post-operative) pump assistance of the heart after surgery
  • Combination with intra-aortal balloon pump for optimized blood supply of coronary vessels possible
 

Challenges:

  • Small and highly complex geometric shapes only possible with huge effort
  • Biocompatible materials with matching mechanical properties necessary
  • High initial costs due to design variations during prototype production/phase
 

Solution:

  • Production of complex components of the heart pump with LCM-technology by Lithoz
  • Material: Aluminum oxide
 

Benefits:

  • Small and highly complex geometric shapes can be easily manufactured with the CeraFab 7500
  • Cost efficient prototyping through tool-free manufacturing in parallel production (more than 10 design variations)
  • Aluminum oxide features good biocompatibility and suitable mechanical properties for complex and small parts

 

Conclusion of Ao. Professor Dr. Margit Gföhler:
“The 3D-Printing technology for aluminum oxide developed by Lithoz enabled us to implement a cost-effective prototyping process for such a highly complex medical product. Aluminum oxide is a perfect fit for miniature parts due to its biocompatibility and mechanical properties.”

Osteoconductive and Bioresorbable Bone Replacement Material

Starting Point:

Due to their osteoconductive and bioresorbable properties, the ceramic raw materials tricalcium phosphate and hydroxyapatite are perfectly suited for bone replacement material and the production of scaffolds.

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Scaffolds are implants of defined form and pore structure that are placed inside the body to treat substantial bone defects caused by accidents or tumor removal procedures. Bioresorbable implants are absorbed into the body and converted into endogenous bone tissue. Extensive knowledge of the inner structure that optimizes bone growth is needed for the development of newer scaffolds, and pore design plays an essential part in achieving the best possible osteoconductivity.

 

Challenges:

  • optimizing pore structure for optimal bone growth
  • production of various complex pore structure designs, adapted to match mechanical strains
  • searching for efficient methods to produce patient-specific implants from the first batch
  • flexibility in material selection
 

Solution:

  • fast production via LCM procedure
  • available materials: tricalcium phophate and hydroxyapatite
 

Benefits:

  • fast, inexpensive realization of different design variations to achieve perfect osteoconductive properties
  • fast and inexpensive production of test bodies for in vivo and in vitro tests
  • easy realization and testing of different design variations
  • particularly high feasibility of small passageways of up to 0.4 mm in diameter
  • web thickness of less than 0.3 mm attainable
  • easy customizability of implants
  • variation of the unit cell

 

Concluding Statement by Dr. Franz E. Weber, University of Zurich, Center for Dentistry:

Concerning basic research in the field of bone replacement material design, the LCM procedure is an incredibly attractive manufacturing method, even for non-engineers. Especially the combination of freely choosing material and design opens up completely new possibilities!

The Contact Holder of a Tribological Sensor

Starting Point:

Complex contact holders are needed to manufacture novel tribological sensors. Because of the particular operating conditions (high temperatures, electrical isolation), it is necessary to apply high-performance ceramic.

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Challenges:

  • to position the tribological sensors as close as possible to the contact point, a very compact construction is necessary
  • realization of a range of miniaturized functional elements within a component
  • due to minimal size the necessary design complexity is hardly feasible with conventional technology
 

Solution:

  • production via LCM-technology
  • employed material: alumina
 

Benefits:

  • by using LCM technology functional prototypes can be produced quickly and cost efficiently
  • easy realization and testing of highly diverse design models
  • time efficient manufacturing through omission of tools
  • successful realization of passageways 0.4 mm in diameter

 

Conclusion Oliver Kriese, Senior Manager CIM Company Robert Bosch GmbH:
Especially in the early phases of product development, when the design has not yet been fully finalized, the LCM-technology is a very attractive realization method for prototypes. In particular, the combination of functional material and high design complexity opens up a whole new range of possibilities!

Biodegradable Photopolymers

In addition to developing ceramic materials for biomedical applications, Lithoz also participates in the development and structuring of specific biodegradable photopolymers. Conventional photopolymers typically consist of (meth-)acrylates and are not applicable for implant materials. Most importantly, these materials are not biodegradable since they decompose too quickly in physiological conditions and/or result in toxic by-products.
 

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The material systems developed by Lithoz feature excellent biocompatibility as well as freely adjustable mechanical properties and degradation rates. These novel biodegradable photopolymers offer new approaches concerning the use of replacement materials for soft and elastic tissues such as blood vessels or skin and for the development of entirely new composite materials for bone or cartilage regeneration.

Casting Cores

Another area of application for LCM-technology is the production of casting cores for turbine blades made of nickel-based alloys. These casting cores are especially employed in sectors such as the aviation industry and energy production, where the opportunity of producing casting cores using the LCM procedure can be especially beneficial.
 

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These cores are required to keep the turbine blades’ cooling channels clear during casting. Only certain ceramic materials are suitable for this procedure. They need to withstand the high temperatures that occur during the casting of fluid metals and fit the parameters of removal through leaching.

Such cooling passages are becoming more and more complex and conventional manufacturing methods such as powder injection molding have reached their limits. With LCM-technology, completely new designs can be realized and you have the possibility of establishing a novel method of production.

Since many companies in the ceramic industry have adjusted their processes to fit certain powder properties, Lithoz offers the possibility of adapting the LCM procedure to fit any specific powder. In the course of a feasibility study, the necessary adjustments to the process and the organic binding component are made to ensure the production of high-quality products.

Cautious handling of sensitive information and strict adherence to confidentiality clauses is a matter of great importance to Lithoz.

A brief overview of the advantages that LCM offers:

  • rapid and cost-efficient production due to tool-free simultaneous production
  • realizability of highly complex structures such as undercuts
  • economic procedure (hollow production technique minimizes time of core removal)
  • fine details such as webs and slots
  • excellent surface quality
  • very high green strength

 

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING

FACILITATING NEW APPLICATIONS AND PRODUCT INNOVATIONS

Additive manufacturing enables the emergence of radical product innovation through function-oriented design properties. Paired with the outstanding material properties of high-performance ceramics, industry and research can now explore entirely new areas of application.

Lithoz’ LCM-technology offers industry and research the possibility to initiate radical product innovation. Additive manufacturing can be the key to establishing ceramic products in other sectors and markets.

Putting additive manufacturing technologies to use in the ceramics industry allows for a shift from product-oriented design to function-oriented design. These technologies are especially suited for the functional integration and performance enhancement of products. High installation costs can be saved and more functional products can emerge through functional integration, thus benefitting the customer’s requirements.

Be your company’s innovator!

Lithoz offers product developers and engineers various workshops and consulting services to better familiarize themselves with the particular properties of the additive manufacturing procedure and to utilize its full potential for their product or innovation.

 

Are you interested yet?


Or would you like to realize your own best-practice project with Lithoz? Just contact Monika Homa. Send a short email to  mhoma@lithoz.com  or contact her directly under +43 1 9346612-208. Ms. Homa will gladly support you in realizing your individual best-practice example within the area of the AM of technical ceramic.