The 3D printing roadmap over the past few decades has been heading in the direction of serial production, end-use parts, cheaper, faster and better manufacturing. The list goes on. However, for 3D printing to reach these goals, advanced and architected materials play a vital role. 

In this blog, we are going to talk about how one of our partners, Tethon 3D, leveraged Fortify’s Flux Developer to develop and optimize their ceramic materials for the FLUX Series printers.

Tethon 3D develops technical ceramics using Flux Developer

Tethon 3D entered the UV curable market in 2016 with the goal to move ceramic additive manufacturing from prototype to production. Where polymers melt and metals can warp, ceramics can generally be used at high temperatures. Below are some examples of ceramics  and the associated max temperatures: 

  • Zircolite: 1400C
  • Cordierite: 1300C
  • Mullite: 1500C
  • Vitrolite: 1000C
  • Porcelite: 1250C
  • High Alumina: 1750C

Because of their high-temperature properties, they are used in a wide variety of industries and applications. Tethon 3D ceramics are used extensively in the defense, oil and gas, electronics, aerospace and outer space industries. Some other applications include dental, health and design industries that may use ceramics for their inert, food-safe, comprehensive strength, or sustainability properties. 

While Tethon 3D’s materials can be printed on many different types of 3D printing technology, the partnership with Fortify enables the highest throughput when it comes to ceramic additive manufacturing. Outside of having the largest build volume for ceramic DLP printing, Fortify printers are able to process material that no other hardware solutions can. Because Tethon 3D is a materials-focused company, our partnership helps them stay on the cutting edge of material innovation. 

Using Fortify’s Flux Developer software Tethon 3D was able to develop two new materials: 

  • Fortify LS-AS (low shrink aluminum silicate)
  • Fortify HP-A 99.8 (high purity alumina)

Fortify LS-AS

The LS-AS is a mid-grade alumina ceramic material that sinters at 1250C and can be fired in a low-cost pottery kiln at cone 7. This material shrinks less than 5% and is isotropic in nature which is unheard of in the ceramic AM industry. 

There are a handful of applications that are a great fit for LS-AS. Because it is very strong in compressive strength at temps between 300C and 1300C, this material won’t flinch at all and can be used for applications in the oil and gas, electronics and automotive industries. Additionally, due to its low shrinkage, this material is used a lot for setters, fixtures, sacrificial parts or waster plates for other metal objects. If you’re getting started in ceramic additive manufacturing, this is the material to start with as it has material properties that cover a large swath of applications and parts. 

Fortify HP-A 99.8

This material is 99.8% pure alumina post-sintering. It is loaded much higher than similar competing materials in the market and you’ll see under 13% shrinkage during the sintering process. Within traditional ceramics, most aluminas will shrink around 12% so HP-A 99.8 is hitting industry standards. 

HP-A 99.8% is considered to be a technical ceramic. It sinters at 1700C, has great thermal shock properties, and will be fully dense at that temperature. With the type of purity, it can be used within the electronics and semiconductor industries due to its anticorrosive properties. For those in the aerospace and defense industry, it can be a great alternative to working with carbides or costly zirconia materials.

Flux Developer

The partnership between Tethon 3D and Fortify is creating significant value-add to the ceramic additive manufacturing industry and we are going to continue to develop materials together. This is enabled by Flux Developer, an open materials platform for the development of viscous and filled resins. It gives users the ability to quickly qualify new materials for operation on FLUX Series 3D printers. This toolkit unlocks access to all key print parameters on our printers, and gives you the ability to control the projector, Continuous Kinetic Mixing (CKM), and Fluxprint as well. 

Here’s how it works: 

Customers or partners start with a photocurable material formulation. Flux Developer allows the user to conduct an initial product screening and characterization with built-in onboarding experiments.  

Once this characterization occurs and there is a deeper understanding of their material, a material profile can be created. The next step is to run a print then analyze the results. This creates a  feedback loop to review the material formulation. This process is repeated as you run more onboarding experiments or tune the material configuration. 

user workflow of flux developer software

Within Flux Developer you can run through a workflow a few different ways with two different tools on the machine including:

  • Photokinetics analysis 
  • Build plate adhesion test

The photokinetics analysis helps the user figure out how a material responds to the dosage and intensity of the UV light whereas the build plate adhesion test studies how the material adheres to the build plate. 

There are more tools available in Flux Developer that are on a Flux Portal, a web-based application, where users are able to create, store, and share material configurations, the information the machine needs to print a specific material, within an organization. Additionally, they can activate or retire specific material configurations. In this creation tool, our customers can adjust peel settings, layer thickness, and other parameters like UV intensity and dosages for every layer. Once a configuration has been created and activated, that material configuration is available on Fluxhost, the on-machine user interface. The user can then select from the list of activated material configurations to print with their custom material.

In summary

The LS-AS and HP-A 99.8% materials are popular in ceramic 3D printing, and the teams at Tethon 3D and Fortify are working together to bring more materials to ceramic additive manufacturing. 

To dive into more detail check our on-demand webinar: Fortify & Tethon 3D: Industry leading DLP 3D printable ceramic powders with the lowest shrink rate.

And to learn more about advanced and architected materials see what our CEO and Co-founder, Josh Martin, has to say about how Fortify is leading the way. You can read it here, Closing the Performance Gap Between 3D Printing and Traditional Manufacturing: How Functional Polymers are Ready to Disrupt the Industry.