The ultimate success of 3D printing technology depends heavily on the materials these printers can use. While some are exploring the potential use of lunar like materials for space applications, back on earth, ceramic powders have been undergoing evaluation as a 3D printing material. Three developers have been working in this field: Shapeways, Bowling Green State University (BGSU), and the latest–Figulo Corp.
While ceramics might be thought of as being limited to the artist community, BGSU has received interested from medical developers because of the properties of properly glazed ceramics.
Shapeways 3D Printed Glazed Ceramics material properties are exactly the same as standard ceramics as the material is fine ceramic powder bound together with a binder. Parts made from this bound powder are then fired and glazed with lead-free, non-toxic gloss finish; the typical finish process of any ceramic product. The glaze Shapeways uses is food safe, recyclable, and heat resistant.
Figulo Corp. is in the middle of fund-raising efforts through VoltCrowd for its proposal that focuses on “the art of manufacturing ceramics.” The company directly manufactures ceramics for consumers, artists and businesses using a ZCorp (3D Systems) 3d printer. The company’s claim is that it is revolutionizing the design and production of ceramic objects.
Figulo changes the design parameters for ceramics and frees the designer from the constraints of the mold and potters wheel. The staff has developed 3d printing technology that redefines the way that ceramics are made. Both BGSU and Figulo are working on developing ceramic powders and binder materials.
For Figulo, layer thickness is 0.1 mm. Customers can expect about 3% shrinkage on firing, and some warping can occur, depending on the design. The glazing process may coat parts unevenly, depending on part geometry. The glaze will add thickness to features on the parts, up to 1.5 mm in some cases.
Bowling Green State University (www.bgsu.edu)