New 3D Printed Ceramics Could Help Build Future Spaceships

Posted: Jan 3 2016, 11:05pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 4 2016, 8:32pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
3D Printed Ceramics Could Help Build Future Spaceships
Credit: Dan Little, HRL Laboratories

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Scientists have developed a new 3D printing technique that allows them to eliminate shortcomings of traditional ceramic processing and to create stronger and flawless ceramics.

Scientists at HRL Laboratories have developed a new technique for making ultra strong and flawless 3D printed ceramics.

The material can withstand temperature in excess of 1,700 degree Celsius and scientists believe that it will soon be used in aerospace industry for building future spaceships and hypersonic aircrafts.

Ceramics have very useful qualities. They can be extremely strong, durable and resist high temperatures but they cannot be moulded into complex or desired shapes as one can do with metals and polymers.

To overcome the limits of traditional ceramic processing, researchers combined a number of techniques that have already been in use and created incredibly detailed, strong and heat-resistant 3D prints that can be morphed into virtually any shape and size.

“We have a pre-ceramic resin that you can print like a polymer, then you fire the polymer and it converts to a ceramic. There is some shrinkage involved, but it’s very uniform so you can predict it,” said Tobias Schaelder, senior scientists at HLR.

"With our new 3D printing process we can take full advantage of the many desirable properties of this silicon oxycarbide ceramic, including high hardness, strength and temperature capability as well as resistance to abrasion and corrosion."

The finding can open a new avenue in building future ceramic-engine jets, rockets and satellites since these spacecrafts require a lot of especially designed small parts that can bear the heat of outer space as well as high temperatures generated during takeoff.

“If you go very fast, about 10 times speed of sound within the atmosphere, then any vehicle will heat up tremendously because of air friction,” said Schaelder. “People want to build hypersonic vehicles and you need ceramics for the whole shell of vehicle.”

Rocket and satellite designers look for superior in strength yet small, heat- resistant parts and it could be possible with HRL’s ceramic 3D printing process.

Stefanie Tompkins, director of Defense Science Office at DARPA says. “The method bring us closer to the goal of being able to ‘engineer in’ desired material properties that generally are not found together, such as strength and low density or low weight and to craft these materials into complex shapes.”

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