3D printing technologies, regardless of the method or material used, often involve more or less complicated post-processing. It is no different with additive manufacturing from ceramics, where finished parts should usually be exposed to high temperature in the sintering process.
The original method of sintering ceramic elements was presented by scientists from the Faculty of Materials Engineering of the University of Maryland. What makes it different is the fact that, compared to other methods, it is ultra-fast and allows sintering of ceramic parts up to 1000 times faster than in the case of traditional sintering in special furnaces.
For standard sintering processes, the time needed to transform the newly created element into a functional part should be calculated in hours. Both preparation and warming up of the ceramic furnace as well as proper sintering process are associated with long waiting times. In turn, other methods, such as spark plasma sintering or the use of microwaves requires high costs, and are only compatible with certain materials.
The method developed by the research team eliminates the need for a long wait – using a temperature of up to 3000°C, the method allows sintering of 3D printed ceramic elements in just a few seconds!
Professor Liangbing Hu, head of the research team, explains that in their method the ceramic element is placed between two layers of carbon material, which is immediately heated to a high temperature, allowing sintering of any ceramic material. The created, homogeneous environment allows sintering of the element not only at a short pace, but also maintaining a uniform internal structure. The creators add that the results of their research confirm that the sintering process can be successfully used for 3D printed parts.
As it turns out, the method will not be stopped only for university use. The patented high-speed sintering technology will be commercialized through a University of Maryland subsidiary, HighT-Tech LLC. The creators believe that their way will allow to accelerate the production chain of electronic ceramics for the needs of the rapidly growing industry of new technologies.
The results of the study were described in the article “A general method to synthesize and sinter bulk ceramics in seconds”, in the renowned scientific journal “Science”.