© 2015 HRL Laboratories. Photo by Dan Little Photography.
(January 1, 2016) Researchers at HRL Laboratories, LLC, have achieved a new milestone in 3D printing technology by developing a process that overcomes the limits of traditional ceramic parts and enables the development of high temperature, high strength ceramic components. According to HRL Sensors and Materials Laboratory Senior Scientist Dr. Tobias Schaedler, "Our team surmounted the challenges inherent in ceramics to develop an innovative material that has myriad applications in a variety of industries."
Schaedler credited HRL’s Senior Chemical Engineer Zak Eckel and Senior Chemist Dr. Chaoyin Zhou with inventing a resin formulation that can be 3D printed into parts of virtually any shape and size. The printed resin can then be fired, converting it into a high strength, fully dense ceramic. "The resulting material can withstand ultrahigh temperatures in excess of 1700°C and exhibits strength ten times higher than similar materials," said Schaedler.
This innovative process enables additive manufacturing of complex shaped ceramic parts. "Ceramics are much more difficult to process than polymers or metals because they cannot be cast or machined easily," said Schaedler. Traditionally, ceramic parts are consolidated from powders by sintering, which introduces porosity and limits both achievable shapes and final strength. "With our new 3D printing process, we can take full advantage of the many desirable properties of this silicon oxycarbide ceramic, including high hardness, strength and temperature capability, as well as resistance to abrasion and corrosion," said Schaedler.
According to Schaedler, the novel process and material have the potential to be used in a wide range of applications. "Everything from large components in jet engines and hypersonic vehicles to intricate parts in microelectromechanical systems and electronic device packaging could be fabricated," he said.