Finding Your Niche: XJet’s Nuclear Ambitions
XJet is focusing strongly on ceramic 3D printing applications, something they may not have initially planned.
It’s fascinating to see how companies evolve. Many start with one concept, but end up in places they didn’t originally anticipate. But if it’s a successful move, then why not?
Israel-based XJet seems to have found one of those pivots. But let’s talk about how they got there.
Their initial intent appears to have been to develop a powerful metal 3D printer by using their unique NanoParticle Jetting technology. This clearly made much sense, because then — and now — demand for metal 3D printing tech is high, likely because the aerospace and automotive industries have “discovered” 3D printing and are integrating into their manufacturing processes en masse.
They realized their printing process could be used for other materials, including ceramics and polymers, but wanted to focus on metal. However, they were able to develop a ceramic version first as it turned out it was a bit simpler to implement.
High-Resolution Ceramic Prints
They showed off the ceramic capabilities first, as they were developed ahead of the metal version, likely to help generate some confidence about their capabilities among prospective buyers. But to their surprise there was significant interest in the ceramic device.
What is curious is the nature of this demand for ceramic capability. Recently we spoke with XJet and found out what’s going on.
It turns out there is a market niche for high-resolution ceramic 3D prints: industries that depend on the dielectric nature of ceramics.
One example of this is in the healthcare industry, where MRI equipment and the vicinity must be completely free of unattached metal components due to the incredibly high magnetic fields involved. Ceramics allow the creation of strong, human-rated medical tools that can be used in these environments.
3D Printing in the Nuclear Industry
Similarly, the nuclear industry turns out to be in this class as well. XJet has discovered that some nuclear applications, for example, require very small features to aim electromagnetic beams. These cannot be produced easily using other methods, and it seems that XJet’s NanoParticle Jetting process is the answer. It’s a market they may not have considered when developing their machine and its process.
Their ceramic prints are notable not only for their extreme resolution, which is generated through the accuracy and tiny size of the liquid droplets, but also for their density after post-processing. XJet explains they have achieved 99.9% density for zirconia material. They say it’s possible to produce key components for steerable microwave devices using this approach.
For a great explanation of XJet’s unusual 3D printing process, watch this interview with XJet’s Dror Danai by our partner Joel Telling:
When I first saw XJet’s process a few years ago I felt it could be potentially widely used for not only metal, but other materials as well. There really are no other processes that can 3D print in metal, ceramic and polymer. So far it seems that XJet has achieved ceramic and metal; could we see them print in polymers too?