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AM Ceramics 2022 Review

AM Ceramics 2022 (12–13 October 2022) was once again an inspiring and engaging two days packed full of thought-provoking talks from top ceramic industry experts. The successful return of in-person events, such as ceramitec and the AM Ceramics Shortcut Sessions held there, had built excitement for Lithoz’s/AT team over the entire year and the team was eager to welcome visitors back to the leading conference for ceramic 3D printing. With the unique location of the Fraunhofer IKTS facilities in Dresden/DE and the motto “Let’s Rewrite the Rules of Ceramics”, this edition was a great opportunity for motivating discussion and networking with this top research institute in the ceramic field. Leading ceramic researchers travelled to Dresden to share their insights into the latest developments in ceramic 3D printing, as well as into their research work from industrial mass production through to medical and dental applications and multi-material printing.

Day 1 

After a warm welcome from Prof. Dr Alexander Michaelis (Director of the Fraunhofer IKTS), Dr Johannes Homa (CEO Lithoz GmbH/AT) and Dr-Ing. Uwe Scheithauer (Group Leader Additive and Hybrid Manufacturing at Fraunhofer IKTS) opened the event before day one began with an exclusive guided tour of the extensive Fraunhofer IKTS labs. Participants had the chance to glimpse ten different departments showcasing some of the world’s most powerful ceramic 3D printing technology, with Fraunhofer IKTS giving insights into their Additive Manufacturing (AM) solutions for high-performance ceramics and presenting the workflows and processes they were to hear more about over the next few days. The tour included stops to view shaping technologies, such as AM and injection moulding, as well as technologies for functionalization, such as systems integration and electronic packaging, microsystems, and smart materials and systems. The final stop was all about the ceramic process chain, covering topics such as powder technologies, glass powder treatment, thermal treatment, and characterisation/ scanning electron microscopy. After this tour, a series of exciting talks in the institute’s main lecture hall kicked off AM Ceramics 2022. 

Market innovation insights
Moderated by Dr Alexander Platzer (RHI Magnesita/AT), day one started with the theme of market and innovation insights and industrial success stories. Session 1 was opened by Dipl.-Ing. Andreas Berkau (IdeeKontor/DE) describing general trends in AM – in particular, those in metal and polymer AM that could also apply to ceramic AM from a service provider’s viewpoint. Thanks to the conventional manufacturing processes for producing Technical Ceramic parts are currently far more complex, ceramic AM is a real opportunity for rapidly and cost-effectively producing end use parts and prototypes. Dipl.-Ing. Edmar Allitsch (EOS Holding AG/ DE) then shared insights from EOS into the requirements and customer expectations which come with scaling up ceramic AM from a prototyping technology to a fullscale process for industrial applications. While there are numerous opportunities in this growth stage, there are also significant challenges for this technology that have already been overcome by metal and polymer AM and which must be faced to establish AM as a key standard technology. Dr Alexander Platzer gave a presentation on using AM for refractory ceramics. By developing 3D printed refractories, manufacturers can achieve such desirable milestones as becoming more energy efficient, reducing their CO2 footprint and having stronger working regulations thanks to it being a more lightweight material. Passing around a 3D-printed refractory structure prototype, Platzer finishes by acknowledging the obstacles still faced by AM if this it to become a truly viable technology in refractories, including scalability, automated handling and whether raw materials are globally available and reasonably priced. Stephan Seitz (CADdent/DE) then discussed the company’s first experiences with Lithography- based Ceramic Manufacturing (LCM), as well as their reasons for choosing this technology and their current state of development. As a center with 15 years of experience in the AM of high precision dental products, CADdent shared its story on how they want to expand its range of services and become an expert in ceramic AM, choosing LCM technology as its partner and technological enabler in its journey. 

Industrial success stories
Industrial success stories were the theme of session 2, with Peter Jain (3RD Axis/ AU) explaining live from Australia how his company have successfully introduced and established ceramic 3D printing into traditional markets. While initially targeting dental and medical value chains, the forced shutdowns caused by COVID-19 presented an opportunity for the company to look towards low-cost, high-volume products for the consumer market. Using the CeraFab 7500 and CeraFab System S65 3D printers by Lithoz, the Australia-based team has successfully secured funding for two key research projects from the Australian governments. Finally, Dr Malte Hartmann (Bosch Advanced Ceramics/DE) spoke of how AM has enabled Bosch to successfully produce powerful parts for industrial applications. AM has been positively viewed by Bosch as an advantageous technology from the start thanks to the level of geometrical freedom enabled when compared to other processes and the possibility for cost-effective, toolfree prototyping. BASF/DE, a prestigious company in the chemical industry, produced an exceptionally complex microreactor for high temperature reactions together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology/DE. Aluminium oxide was used for this component thanks to its high thermal conductivity and low thermal expansion, while AM allowed for the complex inner structures needed for effective use. Day 1 ended with the traditionally atmospheric dinner at the beautiful Carolaschlösschen Dresden, which offered the chance for participants to talk, catch up and network in comfortable setting before the exciting talks resumed the next morning. 

Day 2 

Medical and dental insights
The second day of AM Ceramics was kicked off by a session on medical and dental insights. Adrián Martínez Cendrero (University of Madrid/ES) gave a presentation about multi-material AM for articular tissue engineering as part of the INKplant EU project, examining the goals and initial results as well as current challenges and research trends for the future. The complex geometries enabled by AM is just one of the reasons it is a preferable technology to more traditional manufacturing processes. Priv.-Doz. Dr Sebastian Schwindling (Heidelberg University Hospital/DE) focused on dental applications in ceramic 3D printing. In his comprehensive presentation he looked at the obstacles and trends of today alongside the possibilities of 3D printing replacing traditional methods to manufacture dental restorations in the future. Additive technology enables less material waste, less tooling stress and more geometrical freedom than current conventional workflows. Prof. Dr Dr Frank Tavassol (Hannover Medical School/DE) spoke about how using individually printed 3D constructs may soon reduce the risk of donor site morbidity. By using artificial ceramic bone replacement materials such as tricalcium phosphate, patient-specific 3D-printed implants can be produced which show good biocompatibility and which are more cost-efficient and with far less risk of complications. To round off the medical and dental session, Prof. Dr Franz E. Weber (University Zurich/ CH) gave a stimulating lecture on ceramic bone substitutes. With further research being made into optimal microarchitectures of bone replacements, the various factors which make implants comparable to natural bone were discussed. 

Exciting new technologies
The next session – all about exciting new technologies with a particular focus on multi- material 3D printing – began with Dipl.- Ing. (FH) Murat Demirtas (FGK Forschungsinstitut für Glas – Keramik GmbH/DE) sharing the latest developments in ceramic multi-material printing. Thanks to AM, previously unachievable forms of ceramic composites have been unlocked and this presentation focused on the current research cooperation between Lithoz and FGK – in particular, in terms of the multi-material vat photopolymerization of alumina and zirconia. Prof. Dr Serkan Nohut (Piri Reis University/ TR) gave a lecture on the lithography-based AM of multi-material ceramic components. As technology has progressed, AM can now be used to create flexible combinations of ceramic-ceramic and ceramic-metal in a single part, allowing for customised design with improved functionalities. Recent developments in multi-material 3D printing via LCM now allow for simultaneous processing of two photocurable suspensions with high dimensional precision in a costeffective manner, with the challenges and future opportunities being explained during Nohut’s talk. Continuing with the session, Dr Johannes Homa spontaneously substituted Dr Thomas Mühler (QEP3D/DE) to speak about how 3D printing technologies have the power to completely revolutionise any company’s workflow, explaining how a service provider can successfully offer a tailor-made ceramic 3D printing solution and integrate ceramic materials and technology along the entire production process. Two new and innovative ceramic 3D printing technologies, LIS and LSD, were presented and compared, explaining each processes’ strengths and main features in detail. To round off this section, Dr-Ing. Uwe Scheithauer discussed the hybrid manufacturing of multi-functional and multimaterial ceramic components, sharing his insights into how a combination of different AM technologies can help overcome the limitations of these individual processes by producing single parts of a component separately using various AM techniques and putting this together in the final processing stage. However, this greatly limits the geometric freedom in designing a part compared to manufacturing the component simultaneously, but currently allows for a larger choice in material combinations. Research into the status of hybrid manufacturing of multi-functional and multi-material ceramic components was presented here, along with the potential of different approaches. 

Material research findings
The final session of AM Ceramics 2022 was all about material research findings. Dr Andraž Kocjan (Jožef Stefan Institute/ SL) gave a talk on the rapid sintering of 3Dprinted ceramics with controlled microstructures, explaining how the typical “slow” sintering processing step of advanced ceramic production limits the complexity and scale of microstructures able to be produced. By using a faster sintering technique, such as fast firing, uncontrolled grain growth may be prevented to produced tailored microstructures with the intricate geometrical complexity enabled by AM. Dr Jochen Schilm (Fraunhofer IKTS) then focused on the near-net-shape manufacturing of glasses for a wide range of applications, explaining how Fraunhofer IKTS has been investigating various manufacturing processes, such as conventional powdertechnological manufacturing routes and additive processes, to produce complex and functional glass components. This presentation shared a look into the technical possibilities of manufacturing such individualised parts for large-scale production, as well as the range of applications for such parts. Finally, Ass. Prof. Dr Tanja Lube (Montanuniversität Leoben/AT) rounded off the entire event with her insightful results of a strength test on ceramic AM components. Due to various aspects of the manufacturing technique, the strength of a 3D-printed ceramic part may depend on the orientation in which stresses act with regard to build direction. The CharAM project allows for the manufacture of a test body for statistical evaluation of the LCM printing process, with the results of strength, strength-build direction relationship and the practical aspects of this production method being presented. With all the talks concluded, there was a final farewell to the participants, rounding off another inspiring year of talks and discussion. Thanks to the varied range of expert speakers from different ceramic fields, the professional hosting of the Fraunhofer IKTS institute and eager networking between visitors, the event was a success with great feedback from all sides. The next AM Ceramics will take place 27–28.09.2023 in Vienna/AT. If you are interested in taking part, please get in contact so the Lithoz team can keep you updated.

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