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04-09-2020 | Manufacturing | News | Article

Manufacturing Products Drop by Drop

Author:
Leyla Buchholz
1:30 min reading time

Additive manufacturing is currently one of the most significant trends in industry. Now a team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS has developed a Multi Material Jetting system that allows different materials to be combined into a single additively manufactured part. This makes it possible to create products with combined properties or functions. The new system can be used with particularly high-performance materials such as ceramics and metal.

Additive manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing involve building up a desired product layer by layer instead of producing it from a single piece. This enables high-precision, custom manufacturing with precisely defined product characteristics – and the technology is continuously being improved. Although the early years of additive manufacturing were dominated by polymers, this expanded some time ago to include metals and ceramic-based materials.

Fraunhofer IKTS has now taken another major step forward. Researchers have developed a system that enables additive manufacturing of multi-material parts based on thermoplastic binder systems. Known as Multi Material Jetting, or MMJ, this process combines different materials and their various different properties into a single product. “Right now, we can process up to four different materials at a time,” says Uwe Scheithauer, a researcher at Fraunhofer IKTS.

Additive manufacturing of multi-functional parts

The new system fabricates parts in a continuous process. In the first step, the ceramic or metal powder from which the part will be made is distributed homogenously in a thermoplastic binder substance. The slurries produced in this way are loaded into micro-dosing systems (MDS) in order to commence the actual manufacturing process. These slurries are melted in the MDS at a temperature of around 100 °C, creating a substance that can be released in very small droplets. The IKTS researchers also developed a corresponding software program to ensure precise positioning of the droplets during manufacturing.

Thanks to its high precision and flexibility, the MMJ system is suitable for more than just manufacturing multi-functional components. “We could also use it to make blanks for carbide parts, for example. Thanks to the tremendous precision of the dosing systems, the contours of the blanks would already be very close to those of the end product. They would therefore require very little subsequent grinding as compared to conventional methods. That’s a big advantage when you are working with carbide,” says Scheithauer.


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Background information for this content

2021 | Book

Industrializing Additive Manufacturing

Proceedings of AMPA2020

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