Challenges in Additive Manufacturing of Alumina

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Gonzalez, Hugo (2016)
  • Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
  • Subject: Materials Science | Engineering | 3D Printing | Additive Manufacturing | Ceramics

Additive manufacturing is seen by many as the holy grail of manufacturing, the ability to produce parts nearly autonomously. Adding material rather than removing it would eliminate the need for expensive resources and machining. The recent expiration of key 3D printing patents has led to many advances in the field and has dramatically lowered the prices of 3D printers, making them accessible to the average individual. The one area where additive manufacturing is still in its infancy is in ceramics. Ceramic materials have advantages over polymers and metals such as corrosion resistance, insulating behavior, high stiffness and high temperature stability that make them attractive in industries such as aerospace, medical, and electronics. Processing and machining ceramics however is difficult and expensive as it requires high temperature furnaces and diamond tooling. There are currently two companies that produce printers capable of printing technical ceramics, Lithoz in Germany and 3D Ceram in France. The issue is that both of these printers retail for over $100,000. The work in this thesis intends to show the challenges associated with setting up a ceramic 3D printer at a fraction of that cost for 3D printing of alumina. The first such challenge was creating a photopolymer resin that could be loaded with a large volume percent of aluminum oxide powder while maintain its curability and low viscosity. Several combinations of monomers and dispersants were evaluated before coming to the conclusion that the use of a hexanediol diacrylate monomer and quarternary ammonia acetate were the most effective in suspending volume sold loadings of over 40% while maintaining a low viscosity. The next challenge was adapting an inexpensive polymer printer to use the powder loaded resin. Various printer parameters were modified and different window coatings were implemented to create a print. The issue of the layers curing on the build area window however, proved to be difficult to overcome with only partial prints being produced. The conclusion suggest alternative strategies to overcome this problem.
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