AMS Spring 2023

Japanese Chemical Giant Teams with Tethon for Ceramic 3D Printing Resin

6K SmarTech

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Nebraska-based Tethon Corporation has established itself as a leading developer of ceramic materials for 3D printing. Its work has not gone unnoticed by increasingly important businesses in– and outside of the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. The latest is Japanese chemical giant Showa Denko K.K. (abbreviated “SDK” and publicly traded on TYO: 4004), whose U.S. branch has partnered with Tethon to develop a high purity alumina resin for 3D printing.

The ceramic resin is made up of over 75 percent alumina by volume and 90 percent by weight. This is 25 percent higher loading than other alumina materials in the industry, according to the companies. The higher loading has resulted in less than 10 percent shrinkage after sintering. The company will be showcasing alumina parts at booth 45 at the upcoming AMUG Conference April 3 – 4.

Due to its high strength and abrasion resistance, alumina finds uses in such applications as cutting tools. Meanwhile, its ability to operate at high temperatures with low thermal and electrical conductivity, makes it ideal as a heat and electric insulator. However, it is also this high heat resistance that makes it difficult to process, making the ability to 3D print with the material all the more valuable.

Parts 3D printed using new alumina resin from Showa Denko and Tethon. Image courtesy of Tethon Corporation.

“It has been a pleasure working with the Showa Denko team. Tethon’s unmatched additive experience based around filled UV resins coupled with Showa Denko’s decades of experience in the inorganics, ceramics, and chemical sectors will revolutionize ceramic additive manufacturing.” says Trent Allen, CEO of Tethon 3D. “Some ceramic additive solutions have issues with shrinkage which limits feature sizes and often creates unwanted warpage. This material and partnership set a new standard around material properties and reflects the original intent of the ceramic additive manufacturing industry.”

“We are expecting to see a lot of growth in Ceramic Additive over the next decade and our Showa Denko America team has been looking to enter the additive market.” Says Masao Horayama, President of Showa Denko America. “We are very excited to launch this first alumina material designed for additive and believe working with an experienced materials team like Tethon is an appropriate venue for bringing Showa Denko’s material expertise to market.”

Showa Denko is a major chemical products company with revenue of USD$9.38B as of 2020. Among its operations is the production of aluminum, the primary uses of alumina worldwide. Therefore, developing an additional use for its aluminum-based materials is certainly beneficial to the company. The company’s involvement in petrochemical production is also highly relevant, as ceramics are increasingly being used in oil and gas applications.

The ceramics 3D printing segment is projected to be worth $4.8B by 2030, according to the “Ceramics Additive Manufacturing Production Markets: 2019-2030” from SmarTech Analysis. However, the ceramic 3D printing space remains a small one. Only a handful of 3D printer manufacturers, such as Lithoz and 3DCeram, focus on these materials. This means that Tethon has room to grow and take advantage of this niche, yet important market.

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