Scientists at Jiangnan University, China, have come up with a new 3D printing technique for ceramics, the South China Morning Post has reported.

The new technique will enable the ceramics to be printed in the air without having any support structures. With this pioneering method, ceramic parts can be manufactured from different angles to make previously impossible shapes in 3D printing techniques possible.

Ceramics are commonly used in the fields of electronics, mechanical engineering, and aerospace because of their structural integrity. They are also common because they are resistant to wear while also having endurance to high temperatures. Yet, because of their brittleness and hardness, designing and manufacturing certain ceramic parts.  

How the technology changes 3D printing of ceramics

In traditional 3D printing of ceramics, additional supporting structures are often needed to prevent the collapse of unsupported parts. This extra skeleton not only affects printing efficiency but also raises issues related to removing these supports. 

To address these problems, Professor Liu Ren and his team at Jiangnan University, China, developed a new printing paste and a better curing technique that ensures the material solidifies quickly. In light of this, 3D printing for ceramics will become more efficient while also eliminating the need for support structures. 

With this new technique, they could near-instantaneously solidify multiscale filaments with diameters ranging from 0.41mm to 3.5mm. They were able to construct different ceramic structures like cantilevers and torsion springs. 

Professor Liu Ren’s new paste is a photosensitive ceramic slurry that strengthens and solidifies quickly when exposed to near-infrared (NIR) light. “The printed curves can be freely extended in space without support. The printing process is smooth and continuous, without the need for heating or cooling,” Liu said in a peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications recently.

Per the research, they were also able to prove that NIR light is capable of achieving a better effect than the popular UV light. 

Furthermore, the professor and his team could print mixed ceramics using additives like iron red, chromium green, or yttria-stabilised zirconia. These helped in unifying the sintering temperatures of ceramics that have different properties.