Heat-Resistant Ceramic Parts Are Now 3-D Printable
The promise of additive manufacturing or 3-D printing—faster and cheaper manufacturing of more customizable parts—is limited by the palette of printable materials, which until now has included mainly polymers and some metals. Now we can add ceramics, an important class of materials whose high strength and resistance to heat, chemical degradation, and friction make them attractive for use in the military and the aerospace industries for everything from exterior airplane parts to small components for rockets.
Thanks to a materials science trick demonstrated by researchers at HRL Laboratories, engineers can now use additive manufacturing to quickly build customized, intricate ceramic parts that take advantage of all these attractive properties at once.
It’s challenging to make ceramics into durable parts, especially ones with complex shapes. The materials are not compatible with conventional manufacturing techniques like machining and casting, and the typical method entails using heat to consolidate powder and build solid forms. This approach, which can also be used in additive manufacturing, is not very reliable, however, and commonly introduces flaws that can lead to cracks and fractures.