XJet’s Metal 3D Printing Does Ceramic Too
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on November 09, 2016 |

As if XJet couldn’t get exciting enough, the precision metal 3D printing firm has unveiled the ability to 3D print ceramic parts with its impressive NanoParticle Jetting (NPJ) technology, according to the 3D Printing Business Directory. If you feel you have to see it to believe it, the company will show off the ceramic parts at formnext in Frankfurt, Germany, on Nov. 15.

Dense ceramic parts 3D printed by the XJet platform. (Image courtesy of the 3D Printing Business Directory.)
Dense ceramic parts 3D printed by the XJet platform. (Image courtesy of the 3D Printing Business Directory.)
XJet first revealed its NPJ 3D printer at RAPID 2016, where crowds surrounded the massive machine to witness it 3D printing metal objects with unprecedented levels of detail and surface finish. The technology works by depositing nanoparticle metal ink from piezoelectric printheads, while the heated build chamber causes the liquid agent around the metal to evaporate and the particles to fuse. The parts are then sintered in an oven, revealing fully dense metal objects with layer detail as fine as 1 micron.

In addition to the high resolution of NPJ, the process requires minimal post processing. Support structures are printed with a different material that is completely burned out during the sintering process, making it possible to orient parts in just about any direction. Not only does this open up new levels of geometric complexity to metal 3D printing, but it also saves a great deal of time and labor that would be used to remove supports with machining tools.

Stainless-steel and silver 3D-printed parts produced by the XJet platform.
Stainless-steel and silver 3D-printed parts produced by the XJet platform.
Ceramic 3D printing with NPJ is similar to the metal 3D printing process, in that ceramic nanoparticles are deposited onto the build platform. High temperatures within the build chamber cause the liquid carrying agent to evaporate, leaving only the ceramic particles. The parts are then sintered, removing any support structures and leaving only a ceramic part. The materials, including metal, ceramic and support inks, are housed in cartridges that are easy to store and install.

As Hanan Gothait, CEO and founder of XJet, said of the technology, “After many years of research, we are excited to have reached this milestone of development, producing another high-quality material through NPJ. NPJ is a truly disruptive technology, as it offers a totally new level of fine details, material properties and simple, clean operation without the need to design or remove complex support structures.”

A detailed 3D-printed ceramic part made with XJet’s NPJ technology. (Image courtesy of the 3D Printing Business Directory.)
A detailed 3D-printed ceramic part made with XJet’s NPJ technology. (Image courtesy of the 3D Printing Business Directory.)
As DrorDanai, chief business officer of XJet, added, “The expansion of NPJ to include ceramics will allow XJet to address an even wider range of applications, such as dental, medical and specific industrial applications. At formnext, we will demonstrate how the usage of inkjet technology, and its very large tray, will encourage more industries to look at ceramic additive manufacturing as an option for both customized parts and relatively large-scale manufacturing of small parts.”

It’s no surprise that XJet raised $25 million in funding this year. NPJ could be a game-changing technology, removing the hassle associated with metal 3D printing and replacing it with fine detail. Interestingly, this news mirrors a story from Prodways, which showcased the French firm’s ability to 3D print metal parts with its ceramic 3D printing technology. Because HP’s Multi Jet Fusion process is capable of 3D printing with ceramics, one has to wonder if the printing giant will unveil metal 3D printing capabilities as well.

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