Tethon 3D announced a new product: a ceramic powder suitable for use in SLS 3D printers.
Tethon 3D is a 3D print company focused on ceramics, having long produced a well-regarded line of ceramic powders, typically mixed with resins for use in SLA-style 3D printers.
The Omaha-based company had most recently introduced a 3D printer, the Bison 1000, a DLP device that, as you might expect, is designed to make good use of their ceramic resins.
However, the new material is not for the Bison 1000, nor any other resin-based 3D printer. Instead it is a pure powder that is intended for use with binder jet-style 3D printers. The concept is that binder is selectively deposited on a flat bed of ceramic powder, layer by layer. This holds the ceramic particles together, just barely. Then, after 3D printing completes, the fragile print is fired in a furnace to fuse the particles together to form a complete and solid ceramic object.
Until now, Tethon 3D has offered several ceramic powders, including:
- Tethonite Stoneware
- Tethonite High Alumina
- Tethonite Porcelain
Mullite 3D Printing
The new ceramic powder is mullite, which you may not be familiar with. According to Wikipedia, it is:
“Mullite or porcelainite is a rare silicate mineral of post-clay genesis. It can form two stoichiometric forms: 3Al2O32SiO2 or 2Al2O3 SiO2. Unusually, mullite has no charge balancing cations present. As a result, there are three different aluminium sites: two distorted tetrahedral and one octahedral.”
That may not read entirely clearly, but what you need to know is that the main property of mullite is that it has a very high melting point of around 1850C (or 3200F). That’s incredibly high, and thus makes the material useful for a number of high-temperature applications.
Tethon 3D President Trent Allen said:
“Ceramic and metal additive manufacturing is growing at a rapid pace. We believe that some of the largest growth we’ll see in the next five years is pushing the current boundaries of how things are post processed. We see a lot of value in printing this Mullite material into custom kiln furniture & refractory products.”
I agree with that, as ceramics are an incredibly useful material that has yet to be properly exploited by 3D printing technology. While we’ve seen radically new designs in polymers and metals revolutionize certain industries, we have yet to see that happen with ceramic material. But with increasing ceramic 3D printing capabilities and new materials such as Tethon 3D’s mullite, that may change in the future.
Mullite 3D Printer Resin
Tethon 3D also says they intend on producing a resin version of the mullite material, saying:
“Global 3D printing materials company, Tethon 3D, announces the launch of a mullite ceramic powder for use in binder jetting additive manufacturing and the upcoming release of a beta version of UV curable mullite ceramic resin for SLA and DLP 3D printing.”
When that resin is generally available, it would then be possible for almost anyone with a resin 3D printer to produce high-temperature objects — so long as you happen to have a high-temperature sintering furnace handy.
Via Tethon 3D