In the second half of 2019 Lithoz will be launching a completely new concept of intelligent 3D technology for ceramic components. The “CeraFab System S65” will be produced by contract developer and manufacturer WILD.

Today, 3D-printed high-performance ceramics open new opportunities for physicians, which just a few years ago were confined to the realm of science fiction. Bioinert or bioresorbable ceramics possess properties that allow a whole range of new applications in the medical sector. For instance, implants with a macroporous structure allowing for the ingrowth of endogenous bone tissue in so-called scaffolds, which the body then independently breaks down after a certain time and replaces them with native tissue.

In the case of massive comminuted fractures of the jaw, or of bone resection as a result of bone tumours, the bones are no longer capable of healing by themselves. Thanks to 3D printing however, it is now possible to manufacture a high-strength zirconium oxide scaffold which supports the healing phase and can be left in place because of its excellent biocompatibility. The inner volume of such an implant consists of bioresorbable beta-tricalcium phosphate (β-TCP). The latter is highly osseointegrable, i.e. it is absorbed by the cells over time and is replaced by newly formed bone. Especially the choice of suitable pore and web geometries can help significantly improve bone growth. The combination of resorbable scaffolds and high-strength ceramics results in a hybrid system that is mechanically resilient while creating the ideal conditions for bone regeneration.

Dental applications for 3D-printed ceramics

3D-printed ceramics are also spreading fast in the dental sector. In the case of so-called minimally invasive occlusal veneers, for instance, the objective is to remove as little healthy tooth material as possible before attaching the reconstruction on top of the tooth. The use of LCM technology allows the manufacturing of veneers with a minimum wall thickness of just 100 µm. With conventional procedures the material usually has little inherent strength during manufacturing, so that the edge areas have to be artificially strengthened to prevent the edges from breaking off. This requires careful and lengthy manual post-processing. By using innovative 3D printing techniques, however, it has been possible to achieve an unprecedented small wall thickness. Moreover, the high geometric fidelity of the procedure renders a manual post-processing of the functional surfaces unnecessary.

Lithoz, the world market leader in additive manufacturing of high-performance ceramics will soon be launching a completely novel concept of intelligent 3D-printing technology for the manufacturing of such increasingly precise and complex ceramic parts. The “CeraFab System S65” device will be produced by contract developer and manufacturer WILD and, in addition to a central unit for manufacturing, will also feature a control module with redesigned software. One of the biggest novelties of the system is its modular expansion with up to four printing units run by just one control unit. Another new component is a database in which all materials, work steps and process parameters are stored.

The device’s higher mechanical precision, in which WILD played a pivotal role, yields improved printing results. “The requirements were very high, demanding a 10 µm evenness and parallelism of the fixing points in a frame 1.8 m high and a footprint of 0.6 m2. At the same time, we managed to shorten the assembly time by 20 hours and reduce material costs by 20 percent,” explains WILD project manager Markus Woschitz.

System know-how by WILD

The construction of a so-called “rigid cell” guarantees that the process within the machine does not result in any deformations of the cell. In addition, the bespoke welded structure absorbs any impacts from outside, reducing vibrations to a non-critical level. This enables a more precise layer build-up in the case of large components. Another factor impacting the precision of 3D ceramic parts is temperature. Especially in the case of very time-consuming printing, a stable temperature in the building envelope is essential. In the case of the “CeraFab System S65” this is achieved by regulated heating in the building envelope and water cooling for the projector (Peltier cooling optional).

WILD opted for deep-drawn parts for the construction of the casing. They guarantee comparatively low part and tool costs and allow great flexibility in design, which is definitely futuristic in the case of the new product generation of the “CerabFab System S65”. The device’s impressive features include an ergonomic working height, increased headroom, an innovative door opening mechanism and improved interior lighting.

As a systems partner of Lithoz WILD coordinated the interdisciplinary cooperation of specialists from the WILD Integrated Network throughout the entire development process, including procurement. WILD recently manufactured the first prototypes of the new “CeraFab System S65” and the exhibition model that was displayed at the Formnext 2018 for the first time and immediately attracted a huge amount of attention. This new 3D printer generation is expected to hit the market in the second half of 2019.