Russian scientists are creating a ceramic 3D printer with aerospace, defense, and energy applications

While we’ve covered a number of 3D printed ceramics projects on 3Ders, many of them stay within the bounds of creating pottery and exquisite pieces of art. Are there other potentials for 3D printed ceramics, however? Well a team of Russian scientists certainly seem to think so. Scientists from the Tomsk State University have developed a new method for 3D printing ceramics which could open the doors for the material's usage in the electronics, energy, chemical, aerospace, and even defense industries.
According to the team of scientists, the new 3D printer can produce ceramic structures with comparable properties and strengths of high alloy grades of steel, non-ferrous metals, and other metal alloys. The 3D printer could even manufacture ceramic parts to be used as protective panels on spacecraft, in propulsion systems, substrates, chips, and even more.
These new potentials for ceramics are due in large part to the design freedom afforded by 3D printing technologies. That is, traditionally, ceramic parts and molds are made with injection molding techniques, which drastically limit what types of complex configurations and structures can be made. According to the scientists, the new 3D printer even goes beyond what current ceramic printers can do, as they state that many existing systems can only make porous and not extremely durable parts.
As University of Tomsk researcher Vladimir Promahov explains, “Ceramics take a special place among the new materials, because of the nature of the structures they have different parameters of thermal conductivity, high strength and hardness, which determine their use. However, there is a problem with the manufacture of ceramic articles of complex shape, therefore they do not receive wide distribution.”
The research team is hoping to ultimately change this reality by devising a 3D printing system capable of making high-quality monolithic ceramic prints with complex internal structures and configurations. The new machine, which can print with a reported accuracy of up to tens of microns, can make virtually any shape, from hollow sphere, to a honeycomb structure.
In addition to the 3D printing system, the scientists also prepared the raw materials to print with, which required a rather complicated process. In short, to prepare the ceramic material for printing, they used a “solid frame” method, where they use self-propagating high-temperature synthesis (SHS) based on the exothermic combustion reaction to create ceramic powders.
Promahov explains the next steps saying: “Then we make slurry from the powders, which at a particular temperature take the consistency of sour cream that is suitable for use as raw materials for the 3D printer. After FDM (3D printing) in certain technological conditions we obtain semi-finished products, which are sintered for the synthesis of the solid product with desired properties and shape.”
The innovative ceramic 3D printer already seems to be well along in its development process, as it has already been patented and has received a number of approval documents. According to Promahov, the research team is currently testing and adapting the 3D printer to be used with different types of ceramic materials.



3ders