AMS Spring 2023

UK’s National Centre for Additive Manufacturing Invests in XJet Ceramics 3D Printing

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This spring, the UK’s National Centre for Additive Manufacturing (NCAM), which is hosted by independent research and technology organization (RTO) the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), opened a new additive manufacturing facility at its home in Coventry. The MTC offers integrated manufacturing system solutions to large and small customers in many different fields, and its NCAM works to increase AM adoption by developing innovative systems that can further industrialize the technology. One of its main focus areas is ceramics additive manufacturing.

(Image courtesy of SmarTech Analysis)

According to the Ceramics Additive Manufacturing Part Production: 2019-2030 report from SmarTech Analysis, revenues for the ceramics 3D printing market will reach $4.8 billion by 2030.

“In SmarTech’s currently forecasted timeline, ceramics AM adoption will experience an inflection point after 2025 as all major AM technologies that support ceramics final part production come to maturity and enjoy enough of a presence in the market to support actual serial production,” SmarTech stated.

The NCAM recently published a whitepaper that provides what it calls a “route to widespread adoption” of ceramics AM for the UK.

“We are now seeing a renewed interest in the application of AM to ceramic materials. Particularly the introduction of new systems designed to produce high-density technical ceramics is beginning to generate publicity that will in turn stimulate interest and ultimately trigger a rapidly growing global market,” the whitepaper explains.

“The UK is expected to invest up to £600m over the next 5 years in AM, with ceramic AM expected to grow across the entire UK supply chain. Europe currently leads ceramic AM development and UK industry is well positioned to exploit this market area through R&D activity underpinned by immense experience in traditional and technical ceramic manufacturing.”

From NCAM whitepaper: Ceramic feedstock powders (Source: Kennametal)

This is why the MTC has decided to invest in the NanoParticle Jetting (NPJ) technology developed by XJet Ltd, a provider of metal and ceramic additive manufacturing technologies and solutions.

“XJet’s NanoParticle Jetting technology delivers very high-density parts, so users can have confidence in the materials. Designers often feel the need to ‘overengineer’ AM parts for basic applications, for instance using thicker walls so parts are less fragile, because they are using AM materials, not the real thing, but this is not the case with XJet,” explained Dr. Tom Wasley, MTC Senior Research Engineer, in a press release. “In addition, the large build platform, the lack of interaction with powders and no extra step needed for debinding, scaling up for volume production is easily achievable with minimal time and labour.”

Dr. Wasley says that because the Israeli company was able to successfully demonstrate the ability of its Carmel 1400C system to produce premium end-use ceramic parts with complex geometries, as well as scale up for production purposes, the ceramics printer will be “an ideal addition to its existing AM capability.”

“The surface finish that can be achieved with XJet is arguably very hard to replicate with any other kind of additive process. It also provides a means to make small, intricate and extremely detailed parts,” Dr. Wasley said.

The components that XJet’s ceramics NPJ technology can create feature, according to the company itself, excellent accuracy, superfine details, and smooth surfaces. These types of parts can be especially useful in the medical and dental fields, among others.

“There is a high demand for parts like this in the aerospace, medical, dental and defence industries, some businesses are interested in high precision tooling, but largely they’re looking for end-use parts. We’ve been working in ceramics for over six years, and now we’re looking forward to growing our in-house AM capability. A lot of the organizations that are interested in ceramic manufacturing are searching for a means to batch produce custom, personalized products and the volume capability of the XJet printer will help to realize this need,” Dr. Wasley said.

In order to reinforce the UK industry’s ceramics AM proficiency, MTC is adding the Carmel 1400C printer to its existing portfolio at NCAM’s additive manufacturing facility. XJet has already shipped the system out, and it will go live at the MTC soon.

“We develop our technology so companies can easily move from one design to another, at any point in the manufacturing process, with true freedom of design and zero-cost complexity,” said XJet’s CBO Dror Danai. “However, it’s organisations like MTC that will push the technology to its limits and see what it can really do, make possible what was previously impossible. We’re very excited to work together and see how MTC applies the technology.”

(Source/Images: XJet)

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