Additive manufacturing ceramics

A conference held in Vienna reviewed additive manufacturing with ceramic materials. Report by a Sirris expert.

On 11 and 12 September 2017, Sirris followed the AM Ceramics 2017 conference, organised in Vienna by the Deutsche Keramische Gesellschaft jointly with Lithoz. The aim of this conference was to review the current state of the art and the outlook for ceramics in additive manufacturing.

The following questions were on the agenda:

  • The potential of ceramics in AM and the challenges for industry

  • Current trends and opportunities

  • Design in AM ceramics

  • Existing materials and AM technologies

  • What to expect from AM of ceramics, beyond the simple prototype

Among the speakers, there were industrials (manufacturers of ceramic parts or AM machines), R&D managers, consultants and universities. 80 people were present at the event, coming from all over western Europe.

The messages conveyed throughout the conference join those generally issued for AM metal:

  • Additive manufacturing is not a ready-made solution for all problems

  • Planning AM ceramics from the design of the part so as to get the maximum advantage from additive techniques, while understanding the limitations

  • Not making by AM a part that can be produced using conventional techniques

  • The profitability of a part made by AM must be calculated over its whole life cycle, taking account of the performance improvement gained and not just the production costs

HA-TCP bioceramics, silica, zirconia, alumina, silicon nitride, and mixtures of these ceramics for specific applications, like the fabrication of foundry cores, were cited in various presentations among the high performance ceramic materials already at an advanced stage of development on additive machines.

However, apart from the medical field, the mass production of ceramic parts by AM remains something very rare in the industry. The studies presented mainly concerned R&D case studies intended to develop AM use internally and to familiarise personnel with these new techniques. The objective is to stay ready for the future!

In the near future, given their characteristic properties, ceramic materials should constitute a viable and interesting alternative to many metals.

(Source photos : Lithoz)