AMS Spring 2023

Saint-Gobain Scales Up Ceramics 3D Printing with ExOne Binder Jetting

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Despite their categorization as “metal” 3D printers, ExOne binder jetting systems are often used to 3D print technical ceramics. Using the same established process as metal 3D printing, binder jet combines the design freedom and manufacturability advantages of additive manufacturing with the high temperature stability, high hardness, resistance to chemical reactions or oxidation, and biocompatibility of a variety of technical ceramics.

Ideal for a range of applications, ceramics like silicon carbide (SiC) are often difficult to process with traditional manufacturing methods. In fact, even some additive processes struggle to process technical ceramics.

Binder jetting is uniquely positioned to process complex designs in silicon carbide. The dark powder won’t cure for UV-based methods and its high melting point eliminates laser-based technologies. Parts are often easily infiltrated for precise properties and providing near net shape parts reduces difficult and expensive demolding or machining steps. Ceramic projects today already help manufacturers reduce lead times by weeks and simplify supply chains without expensive tooling.

Saint-Gobain Research North America Scaling Ceramic 3D Printing

Saint-Gobain is the global leader in innovative ceramics. The 3D printing team at Saint-Gobain Research North America in Northborough, Massachusetts, identifies use cases where additive manufacturing can improve production or product performance, as well as advance the use of 3D printing for materials within the company’s portfolio.

With two different ExOne binder jetting machines, the team is forging the path to industrial adoption of more efficient, more sustainable designs through ceramic materials research and application development.

ExOne Innovent binder jet 3D printer used to develop technical ceramic applications.

“We see binder jetting as a highly scalable technology, which is obviously very important if the process is to be used for commercial production,” said Nicholas Orf, Principal Scientist and Additive Manufacturing Group Leader at Saint-Gobain Research North America.

Saint-Gobain invested in its first ExOne binder jetting machine, an Innovent, in 2018. The flexibility of the machine allowed the team to perform research on a variety of its ceramic materials. To further advance the initial materials research into production-ready applications, the company added an X1 25Pro in 2020.

The two-machine setup at Saint-Gobain takes advantage of the versatility of the Innovent as a multi-purpose tool and the increased capacity of the X1 25 Pro for industrial adoption.

“Being able to demonstrate scalability is important,” Orf said. “We’ve used the Innovent for years for prototyping concepts for several of our businesses. More recently, we’ve been seriously focusing on scaling a few of the most promising product designs and think we will be able to handle the yearly part production on the X1 25Pro.”

X1 25Pro 3D printer used to scale silicon carbide applications to production

Download the complete case study to learn how the Saint-Gobain Research North America team uses binder jetting to explore new additive manufacturing applications utilizing the company’s materials such as alumina, zirconia, and silicon carbide, among other high-performance ceramics.

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