Waiting for Transparent Aluminum 3D Printers

By on September 6th, 2016 in Ideas

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 Some non-transparent aluminum
Some non-transparent aluminum

Among the infinite variety of materials in our world is a very peculiar substance known as Aluminium oxynitride, or as some call it, transparent aluminum. 

It’s a ceramic composition that has a very peculiar combination of attributes: it’s extremely strong, due to its crystalline structure, and at the same time it’s significantly transparent in the a large range of optical wavelengths including the entire visible spectrum. 

These properties make Aluminium oxynitride, or ALON, its commercial brand name, ideal for particular applications. Bulletproof glass, for example. Another would be windows for military vehicles. 

 A desktop 3D printer with a transparent aluminum frame 
A desktop 3D printer with a transparent aluminum frame 

But when will this be used in 3D printers? There is one device, the Ridgeyard Transparent Aluminum 3D Printer DIY Full Kit, which is a 3D printer with a transparent aluminum frame. That’s not what I’m looking for: I want a machine that can PRINT transparent aluminum objects. 

It seems that since Aluminium oxynitride can be fabricated into useful objects using conventional ceramic processes, it might be 3D printed using a variation of a powder-based 3D printer. 

However, conventional processing also involves significant heat treatment for densification and microscopic structure, and mechanical polishing to ensure optical properties. These could be standard post-processing techniques for an aluminium oxynitride 3D printer. 

While there are a great many 3D printers currently available, variations in materials may require equipment adjustments to enable successful 3D printing of a radically different material. 

If you’re aware of any experiments with 3D printed aluminium oxynitride, please let us know!

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!