Updated: Dec 1, 2020
It was reported by SmarTech recently that Ceramics 3D Printing is on course to reach 4.8 billion in revenue by 2030, showing the great potential that it holds as an alternative material.
But what makes ceramics a differential over the established plastics and metals that are more widely used in 3D printing? We have outlined 5 essential industries where ceramics could excel in.
The medical industry has always been into additive manufacturing to produce a range of applications ranging from prosthetics to medical implants where the porous nature of ceramics comes into play as they have similar surfaces to human bones.
Traditional ways of making implants are often costly and tedious with generic sizes. 3D printing thus provides an alternative with a cheaper and quicker manufacturing process, with the option for customization to each individual.
Furthermore, technical ceramics are biocompatible ranging from bioinert ceramics like alumina and zirconia to bioactive ceramics like hydroxyapatite.
This makes them ideal for implants and biomedical devices.
In aircraft design, numerous internal and complex features are impossible to manufacture, costly, and time-consuming using traditional manufacturing processes. This is where ceramics comes into play with its durability and high heat-resistant properties.
Also, there is the capability to specialize and customize parts to optimize the topology and structure of aerospace parts, hence ensuring optimal performance levels and a lower rate of failure.
Furthermore, the high stillness and compression strength of ceramic means parts can be designed to have a lightweight design which is critical for the aerospace industry.
Technical ceramics can continuously work under extreme temperatures of over 1000℃ which traditional materials such as plastic & metals are not capable of achieving.
With the capability of 3D printing to customize along with ceramics’ insulative properties, they are a good avenue for applications that require energy efficiencies such as solid oxide fuel cells, refractories, foundry, heat dissipation, and catalyst.
With alumina being a good heat conductor coupled with additive manufacturing, the surface area of heat sinks, for example, can be increased significantly by designing internal grooves and curved fins.
This kind of design increases the efficiency of heat dissipation, and cannot be produced by traditional ceramic manufacturing processes.
4. Electrical & Electronics
Electronics typically involve the handling of electricity as this is where ceramics show their excellent potential as they are good electrical insulators on top of being able to produce complex customized parts fast and cheaply which is not possible with other methods.
Typical materials like alumina and zirconia are widely used in the electric & electronics industry for fast developmental work as well as other applications where high resistivity is required.
Ceramics AM also allows for freedom of design and creates more allowance to improve overall part performance such a reduction in weight and space.
5. Chemical Processing
The chemical industry is one where many ceramic 3D printing applications excel because of how they remain chemically and physically stable even under extreme working conditions.
They also have excellent resistance to most acids, bases, electrolytes, plasma, and other corrosive media.
Example applications include cellular structures suitable as filters, static mixers, membranes, catalysts and catalyst supports, manifolds, as well as thermal and acoustic insulation components, which often only 3D printing can provide in creating complex shapes.
While there has been much focus on plastics and metals in 3D printing over the years, ceramics has now come under the radar amidst research challenges and industrial needs.
As technology continues to mature with new and improved materials, more applications will be created with ceramics to demonstrate their great potential and value.
So, while the onus now is still on using plastic and metal in 3D printing, the use of ceramics will likely snowball once the process to use them becomes more mainstream.