Lithoz’s CeraFab 7500: AM Goes Ceramic

Additive Manufacturing adds ceramics to its materials portfolio with the addition of Lithoz’s CeraFab 7500.

Since its beginning the Additive Manufacturing (AM) industry has been dominated by two classes of materials, plastics and metals. While both of those materials are critical in today’s products another equally valuable material has been cast aside by many AM manufacturers. That material is ceramics.

To remedy this trend Lithoz GmbH has developed a dedicated ceramic AM system called the CeraFab 7500. But why would ceramics be valuable to AM?

Unlike plastics and metals, ceramics have unique properties that allow them to absorb and dissipate heat in a manner that makes them ideal for aerospace and milling applications.

In addition to its thermal properties, ceramics can be formed into extremely smooth surfaces, a property that can be useful in the medical and mechanical applications where fit can be a make or break property.

How the CeraFab 7500 works:

Lithoz’s CeraFab 7500 builds components using a patented process called Lithography-based Ceramic Manufacturing (LCM). In the process the Cerafab 7500 selectively cures a photosensitive resin that’s laced with homogeneously dispersed ceramic particles. As a model is built the 7500’s resin material acts as a binder between ceramic particles, ensuring that all components are built as a unified whole. Once a print is complete, components are fired in a furnace where the binder is removed and the ceramic particles fuse together.

What sets the CeraFab apart from other photo-lithography systems (aside from its primary materials) is the machine’s ability to create extremely precise layer information. Once sliced into the appropriate number of layers a model’s information is projected onto the 7500’s vat of resin by means of LEDs and special optics. Using this process the CeraFab is capable of producing small ceramic parts with unparalleled accuracy and detail.

The CeraFab 7500 in Action:

For the past 25 years Hufschmied Zerspanungssysteme GmbH (HZ) has been building some of the most innovative tools for machining non-metaling materials. With a quarter century of expertise cutting plastic, glass and carbon fiber materials HZ has a deep interest in materials. In fact, a key to HZ’s competitiveness is the company’s constant researching into cutting edge materials and strategies for milling state-of-the-art substances.

After learning about the CeraFab 7500, HZ’s engineers realized that many of their high-speed plastic cutting tools, which were already being built with ceramics, could be more consistently produced using additive manufacturing. With that notion in mind the HZ ran a trial and built a number of ceramic milling tools using a CeraFab 7500.

Once built, HZ’s engineers realized that the 7500’s AM technique could produce concise geometries that would otherwise have been complicated and excessively expensive to cast. Furthermore, blades built by the 7500 were extremely light, lending them incredible heat dissipation properties. Given those new attributes HZ’s CeraFab-built tools could push the boundaries of high-speed cutting, avoiding the corrupting plastic smearing that accompanies high speed milling with metal tools.

Quick Facts

Manufacturer: Lithoz

Model: CeraFab 7500

Material: LithaLox HP 500 (Al2O3); LithaCon 3Y 610 Purple (ZrO2); LithaBone TCP 200 (Ca3(PO4)2)

Color: Dependent on Material, White & Very Light Purple

Build Envelope: 76 mm x 43 mm x 150 mm (2.99 x 1.69 x 5.90 in.)

Layer Thickness: 25 – 100 μm

Build Speed: up to 100 slices per hour

Axis Resolution: 25 – 100 μm

Printer Dimensions: 119.8 x 59.9 x 180 cm (47.2 x 23.6 x 70.9 in)

Printer Weight: 250kg (551 lbs)

Recommended Uses: Automotive; Aerospace; Electronics; Milling; Medicine; Space Engineering

Machine Price: ~$255,000


Who Should Use the CereFab 7500:
Anyone interested in producing short-run, small, high-performance ceramic components will be satisfied with the CeraFab 7500.

Given that the 7500 can build up to 100 layers/hr the machine’s speed & accuracy make it very attractive.

The CeraFab is also a relatively small professional grade system, making it easy to add to any work environment.

Why Wouldn’t You Use the CereFab 7500:
While the CeraFab 7500 can produce end-use parts, those applications suit niche-markets. The Lithoz should not be considered an end-use AM system. However, when producing accurate prototypes the CeraFab’s level of detail ranks it among the best in the AM landscape.

In addition to its lack of application variety the CeraFab 7500’s need for post-processing in a kiln might dissuade some users from adopting the system.