Lithoz is ready to scale up serial ceramic additive manufacturing production
Technical ceramics 3D printing is the most advanced segment of AM and that also makes it the hardest to implement. One challenge is that there is no ceramics rapid prototyping: technical ceramics are end-use materials, in fact, they are often the best end-use materials; they come into play only when all else fails. That’s why they are so fascinating. Technical ceramics 3D printing is the fringe of 3D printing: in terms of material availability, system capabilities and product quality, Austrian company Lithoz can be considered the technological leader in this segment. Certainly they are the most experienced among ceramics AM hardware providers. When Lithoz’s Co-founder and CEO invited me to visit their HQ in Vienna, to learn more about the company’s business model and vision, I seized the opportunity to see exactly how Lithoz is ready to scale up.
Lithoz is one of my favorite companies in the AM industry since – at Euromold 2013 – I first saw the amazing ceramic parts they are able to deliver using their proprietary LCM (lithography-based ceramic manufacturing) technology. They were the first company to deliver a commercially viable DLP stereolithography based system to process advanced ceramics. Their capabilities have increased over the years, especially in terms of materials selection but also in terms of productivity.
Lithoz’s main challenge is the same that all ceramics AM operators face: gaining industrial awareness and driving adoption. These challenges are not so much technological: Lithoz’s team of engineers is at work on so many projects that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Accurately conveying these capabilities to the market of potential adopters can be more tricky than inventing them.
Ceramics 3D printing companies need to target very specific and yet difficult to reach adopters: generalist 3D printing services don’t usually offer ceramic 3D printing due to the many challenges associated with processing and post-processing these advanced materials. So the key adopters for ceramic 3D printing are usually either specialized ceramic 3D printing services – such as Steinbach, in Lithoz’s case, but also others – or ceramic industry part suppliers that decide to provide 3D printed parts to their clients.