Why do manufacturers rely on ceramic FFF 3D printing?


Since entering the additive manufacturing market in 2018, Nanoe has been working to democratize the use of ceramic and metal FFF 3D printing with an accessible and easy-to-implement process. While its filaments have found their way into laboratories and research centers in France and internationally, they are becoming more and more important for manufacturers who rely on the integration of additive manufacturing in-house. The French manufacturer‘s ceramic materials offer several interesting thermal, chemical and mechanical properties for demanding activities such as orbital welding, the manufacture of boiler parts or the manufacture of turned parts. Thanks to Zetamix filaments, several international manufacturers have been able to increase their agility by reducing production lead times and machine downtimes as well as costs.

The users of Zetamix’s ceramic additive manufacturing solutions include three manufacturers: MGB, SAPCO and Orbital Service. 3D technologies have brought them many advantages, and in particular, all three have been seduced by the thermal abilities of ceramic filaments, including zirconia and alumina. These three manufacturers had very specific problems that could only be solved with difficulty or at least at significantly higher costs and times using subtractive manufacturing.

More and more manufacturers are integrating additive manufacturing (Photo credit: SAPCO)

Aluminum oxide, a high temperature resistant 3D printing material

MGB is a French company founded in 1956 that specializes in the manufacture of turned parts for the connector industry. It mainly works with players in the medical, aerospace and electronics industries who need bespoke screws. These screws have different degrees of hardness, with the bottom of the screw being generally less resistant than the top. In order to manufacture this type of special screw, MGB has developed a special machine that anneals the upper part by induction in order to achieve the required hardness.

MGB has integrated a 3D-printed part made of aluminum oxide into this machine. It is a custom-made holder, punched at the end, into which the French manufacturer inserts the respective screw. It is then heated while a thermal sensor monitors the temperature. It was therefore necessary to imagine a guide that can withstand such a temperature, perfectly adapting to the shape of the screw in question and supporting the presence of the electrical detector. A challenge that could not have been overcome so quickly without the integration of additive manufacturing. According to MGB, the development and manufacture of a new screw holder takes less than a week. A timeframe that would have been inconceivable if the company had used subtractive manufacturing or a service provider.

Ceramic FFF printing

3D printed screw mounts (Image credit: Nanoe)

Improvement of the orbital welding processes with Zetamix filaments

Orbital Service is a German company that specializes in orbital welding and has also relied on Zetamix to manufacture customized parts. In his business, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding operations present many challenges, especially when it comes to avoiding oxidation and air pollution. To overcome this, the company must create an arc and spray an inert shielding gas around the point to be welded. With orbital welding, however, the pipes to be welded are very large and the TIG welding nozzles are not suitable. This favors the oxidation and post-treatment of the parts. The output is slowed down significantly and the process is unreliable.

Here additive manufacturing has a card to play. Orbital Service has used FFF technology and Zetamix ceramic filaments – especially aluminum oxide – to develop custom TIG nozzles. These nozzles now have a concave shape that is better adapted to the volume of the pipes to be welded. This reduces welding errors and the consumption of shielding gas. The German company chose aluminum oxide because of its temperature resistance and claims that the entire design and manufacturing process only takes a week.

Thanks to additive manufacturing, Orbital Service can design more suitable concave nozzles (Image credit: Nanoe)

Choose Zetamix to reduce maintenance time

SAPCO manufactures ceramic ignition and ionization electrodes that are integrated into industrial boilers and burners. To this end, the company has developed automated manufacturing processes with tailor-made machines especially for assembly. However, this remains complex: When welding the electrode, 2 metal edges are placed around the part, edges that are mounted over plastic welding pins. These are damaged very quickly by the high temperature, so that the machine comes to a standstill at least once a day. This downtime affects the entire production process at SAPCO, forcing them to find another way to manufacture these pens.

The company initially considered using ceramic injection molding, but it quickly turned out to be impractical, expensive and difficult to implement. SAPCO therefore turned to additive manufacturing and opted for ceramics instead of polymers. The choice fell on zirconium oxide, which can withstand temperatures of up to 800 ° C. The Zetamix solution was ideal because it was easy to implement and use. The teams were able to design and produce optimized welding pins in 5 days. They have to be changed once a month, which significantly reduces machine maintenance and downtime.

3D industry impression

The welding pins are 3D printed with zirconia (Image credit: Nanoe)

An answer to internal tool problems

When manufacturing internal tools, manufacturers can therefore rely on ceramic FFF 3D printing to gain agility and increase their productivity. The selection of ceramics enables industries such as aerospace, automotive, foundry and jewelry to withstand extremely high temperatures and other chemical and mechanical loads.

Finally, opting for Nanoe solutions enables the user to have a cost-effective offer compared to other ceramic printing processes. Besides the price, it’s also a question of ease of use. The FFF process is easy to use and can be integrated into production lines. This is particularly true for interior decoration: the choice of the Zetamix solution will be more suitable than other processes such as photopolymerization, which will be preferred for the manufacture of very precise parts in the biomedical field, for example. You can visit the manufacturer’s website to learn more about the filament range.

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