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Industry Publication Highlights Ceramic 3D-Printing Technique

Industry Publication Highlights Professor Minary’s Ceramic 3D-Printing Technique

Majid Minary

Dr. Majid Minary

Research by Dr. Majid Minary, Eugene McDermott Associate Professor and associate professor of mechanical engineering, was just featured on the March 2021 cover of Additive Manufacturing. The issue includes a feature article detailing his laboratory’s breakthrough gel bath process that is used to create scalable 3D-printed polymer-derived ceramics. The publication serves as a key communication tool for additive manufacturing professionals, though Minary’s technology will provide new possibilities for a range of potential applications.

“I am particularly excited to share the information about our work to a broader audience,” Minary said.

While 3D-printing polymer-derived ceramics (PDCs) is a challenge due to the high temperatures required to create them, PDCs have desirable properties such as high-temperature and corrosion resistance, making them suitable for large-scale defense to microelectronic applications. Specifically, Minary has created a unique printing process using a thixotropic bath, a gel comprised of mineral oil and silica nanoparticles for support through printing and curing that has a time-dependent shear thinning property and is self-healing.

Minary cover image

“3D printing ceramics by this method through using a polymer precursor is advantageous because we know a lot more about polymers and their processing,” Minary said. “We have more flexibility to shape them in terms of additive manufacturing.”

Through the 3D printing process, the printer’s nozzle moves through the bath that has a consistency that Minary said is similar to ketchup — dense enough to support a complex structure without the need for additional supports but also allows enough flow for the printer nozzle to move through it easily. Because the bath is composed of mineral oil that has a boiling point of nearly 300 degrees Celsius, which is three times higher than the boiling point of water at 100 degrees Celsius, the newly printed structure can be moved directly from the printer with the bath into an oven to be set, then removed for its finishing process in a very high-temperature furnace of nearly 900 degrees Celsius.

Once the polymer ceramic structures are created, they have many desirable properties such as the ability to withstand high heat up to 1200 degrees Celsius, as well as superior strength and corrosion resistance. While the process cannot be reversed, the bath may be used with a variety of polymer resins. Minary envisions scaling the process to produce larger structures such as hypersonics and high-pressure heat exchangers, plus microelectronics that depend on properties 3D-printed ceramics provide.

3D printed ceramic bath

The 3D printer nozzle moves through the thixotropic bath (left), then the newly created structures are moved with the bath to set in an oven (right).

Minary joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science in 2012. His research interests include advanced manufacturing and materials. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and he has received two Young Investigator Program awards from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Office of Naval Research.


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