3D Printing: From Multi-Material to Functionally-Graded Ceramics

3D Printing: From Multi-Material to Functionally-Graded Ceramics
Lithoz has been developing ground-breaking multi-material 3D printing technology.

Fields such as medicine, electronics and aerospace are using 3D printing to overcome problems that require innovative new technology to further progress past their already established applications. Multi-material in 3D printing is one area that is garnering widespread attention due to the broad range of possibilities that it provides to make more functional parts with improved properties. Lithoz, the global market and technology leader in ceramic additive manufacturing, has been developing ground-breaking multi-material 3D printing technology and will review its work on this fascinating topic in this article.


Rapid development of additive manufacturing technologies is no longer restricted to single-phase materials, as multiple materials can now be used simultaneously to manufacture parts. By expanding the design space to different materials, multi-material 3D printing establishes the possibility of manufacturing 3D parts with enhanced properties and altered material compositions and structures from one section of the component to another. Structures combining highly complex shapes with different materials without the need for joining or assembly can be directly manufactured, allowing for the replacement of assemblies with printed parts. This opens the door to numerous applications, in fields ranging from electronics and embedded sensors to biomedical implants and devices, as well as aerospace, automotive and energy storage systems [1, 2].
This article introduces the CeraFab Multi 2M30, developed by Lithoz for multi-material 3D printing and functionally graded ceramics, and gives ideas for potential uses and applications in a variety of scientific fields. 
The CeraFab Multi 2M30
Powered by industry-leading LCM technology, the CeraFab Multi 2M30 is Lithoz’s new multi-material 3D printing machine which allows for the manufacture of multi-functional components. The assembly of the CeraFab Multi 2M30 (Tab. 1) consists of two rotating vats (Fig. 2) filled with photocurable resin/suspension. Two separate vats mean ceramics can be combined with other ceramics, polymers or metals. These vats move over the projecting system as needed, curing the respective layer. The vat’s bottom is transparent, allowing the light source to expose suspensions from below. The building platform is mounted on an axis and moves up and down during the 3D printing process. The innovative two-vat system enhances the speed, accuracy and effectiveness of a clean material switch between and within layers while the fully automated cleaning step avoids cross contamination during material changes. Very little slurry is used and no material recovery operations or pumping systems are required to keep the slurry circulating, making it very attractive in terms of cost and resource efficiency. The swivel platform assembly allows for huge innovation potential and vats can be switched out for other systems with customized, independently written software, allowing for greater customer development and opportunities for research. An essential step in the production of composite materials is the successful co-processing and co-sintering of the selected powders. Developments in the sintering of different classes of materials into one component aim to match shrinkage behaviours of different materials to make functional components [3].
Lithoz is investigating ways to guarantee the successful co-sintering of multi-material components. The shrinkage behaviour of various components is determined by tuning powder fractions in the slurry and by adapting the particle size distribution or shape.


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