Additive Manufacturing Systems for Ceramics

Lithoz provides industry and research with additive manufacturing systems for the production of high-performance ceramics. The individual system components are perfectly coordinated and guarantee high-quality parts made of high-performance ceramics, directly produced from correlating CAD data. Moreover, Lithoz’ product portfolio includes various ceramic materials and software products optimized for 3D-printing as well as customer-specific solutions for complex challenges.

CeraFab 7500 & CeraFab 8500

Lithoz’ CeraFab systems are reliable and user-friendly plug-and-play network printers that perform in stand-alone operation. They facilitate the production of high-performance ceramics with material properties found in conventional manufacturing processes. Through the elimination of tools and a minimal level of material consumption within the production process, it is now finally possible to economically manufacture prototypes and small batches of high-performance ceramic parts.

High-Quality Parts

Parts that have been manufactured using LCM technology exhibit similar or equal material properties to those that have been manufactured using conventional methods. For instance, the manufactured alumina parts have 99.4 % of the theoretical alumina density (>3.96 g/cm3) and a 4-point bending strength of 430 MPa. Zirconia parts have a density of 99.6 % of the theoretical value and a tensile strength of 650 MPa. Moreover, the manufactured parts display excellent surface quality (alumina: Ra~ 0.4 µm, zirconia: Ra~ 0.6 µm) without post-processing.

CeraFab 7500

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Operating Principle of the CeraFab Systems

The LCM technology was developed by Lithoz and is based on the principle of photopolymerization. Ceramic powder is homogeneously dispersed in a light-sensitive organic matrix and selectively structured through mask exposure.

The body of the CeraFab system consists of a vat, filled with a photocurable slurry. Through the rotation of the vat, a layer of slurry is applied with a static wiper blade. The vat is transparent so that the slurry can be lit from below. Lithoz uses a specially engineered projection system, whereby the light engine and the custom optical system are perfectly attuned.

LEDs are used for light exposure, due to their long working life, homogeneous light distribution and consistent output. The projected image is generated via a digital mirror device (DMD). The mirror array consists of more than two million mirrors, which are lit by the LEDs, and can be operated individually. Each of these mirrors can be turned on or off separately and simultaneously, which enables dynamic mask exposure. The advantage of this procedure is that the entire surface area is exposed at the same time, making the duration of light exposure independent of the size of the cross section to be exposed.

CeraFab-Systems Advantages at a Glance

Because of the intuitive user interface and the large degree of automation within the systems, swift usage instruction and straightforward handling of the machinery can be assured.

The systems, with their strictly functional design properties, require little space (footprint: weight 250 kg; size 1.2 m x 0.6 m x 1.8 m) and are thus easily integrated into existing manufacturing environments. No special safety measures need to be taken since the projection system runs on LED technology.

Data preparation can comfortably be carried out from your desk. First, components are read in with the CeraFab DP (data preprocessing) software using STL format.

The constructed 3D model is dissected into individual layers and prepared for the production process. All process parameters can be specified using the CeraFab DP software, all relevant building parameters saved and later changed if necessary. Additionally, the software lets you preview the layer construction, which allows for troubleshooting long before the actual building process has begun. Following this adjustment process, the fab data is routed through the network directly to the CeraFab.

With the CeraFab HC (hardware control) all necessary processes can be clearly and easily controlled directly on the machine.

The user-friendly interface gives instant updates on the current construction status and remaining TTC (time to completion). The system has been designed in a way that assures fast and easy usage instruction and the machine’s controls consist of only a few buttons. Additionally, the CeraFab systems ensure easy maintenance. Changing the material can be accomplished in no more than five minutes.

While developing the CeraFab systems, special focus was put on low operation costs through minimized energy consumption.

The CeraFab systems use an LED-based exposure unit to generate the layer information. As a result, operation costs as well as energy consumption can be kept to a minimum. The CeraFab operates on the same energy level as a conventional PC.

Due to the specialized bottom-up-configuration (exposure from below through a transparent vat), the CeraFab systems only use as much material as is necessary for producing the layers.

Additionally, material can be reused when applying the LCM procedure. Changing the material takes no more than five minutes, since only the vat and building platform need to be swapped out and both elements are equipped with a quick-release system. The dosage system developed by Lithoz automatically calculates material consumption before each construction. This simplifies longer construction procedures since manual re-dosing the slurry is no longer necessary.

The results of the LCM process are conventional green bodies, which, as with standard ceramic procedures, are subsequently debinded and sintered.

The parts can be processed after the construction process or in a (pre-)sintered state using any ceramic post-processing method such as milling, grinding or polishing.