This week we had the pleasure to talk to Michiel de Bruijcker from Admatec, a Netherlands-based company focusing on developing additive manufacturing technology for ceramics. Admatec Europe BV is about to launch the ADMAFLEX 130 3D printer this September.
As a mechanical engineer, Michiel has been active in der ceramics industry since 2007. In 2011 he became the Managing Director of Formatec Ceramics and started the Admatec project at Formatec in the summer of 2012. The project successes were translated into Admatec Europe BV by November 2013. Currently Michiel takes on a duo responsibility for Formatec Ceramics as well as Admatec Europe BV.
Michiel de Bruijcker: In the Netherlands additive technologies were introduced more than 20 years ago in the shape of the first rapid prototyping machines, they are now widely spread. Our Ceramic Injection Moulding mothercompany Formatec made the strategic decision to attempt using this technology to produce proto- and smallseries production of ceramic parts. The huge success lead to the spin-out company Admatec Europe Bv. Who is providing a jobshop for functional parts and now also offering the machines.
In wich industries do you see the most potential for ceramic 3D printers? Did you have pre-orders from industries you wouldn’t have expected?
Using AM to make technical ceramic parts adds the designfreedom and throughput time reduction of AM, opening a whole new field of applications for ceramics, which already was superior in material properties but conventionally hard to shape. Main applications lay in the high tech sector (high temp, high wear resistance, hars environment, isolator), in medical (teeth, implants, surgical equipment, for it being easy to autoclave, bio-inert, chemical resistant) and in aesthetical (Rings, watch casings, car interior parts for high gloss, crass proof, luxury heavy look and feel) We now have pro orders for machines from dental, research and machine building companies. We were and are already selling parts as a jobshop in these market segments.
Not expected interests come from industries related to micro reactors, printing ceramics will allow to build high efficient micro reactor parts. Secondly printing cores for the investment casting industry is an unexpected new, potentially big market.
How would you describe the connections in the 3D Printing ecosystem (hardware, software, materials,…)? What does Admatec focus on? Is it possible to neglect one of the areas?
The regular parts of the 3D Printing ecosystem can be used. Admatec added knowledge about debinding and sintering ceramics, and used its knowledge on producing and handling ceramic slurries, establishing curing parameters and handling systems for viscous pastes. Just mixing ceramic powders in plastics resins without this background-knowledge will not lead to accurate solid sintered parts. Failing one link in this chain immediately results in non-conform products. Most important distinction is that this method is an example of real additive manufacturing. It is producing functional accurate end parts with material properties equal to conventional technologies. That is why we prefer to speak of Additive Manufacturing rather than 3D printing, which still sounds more like prototyping near-netshape representing materials.
Initially you will start with two materials, Aluminiumoxide and Zirconiumoxide. Are there any material developments you can talk about or will these materials cover the needs of your customers?
Yes we can develop slurries, define printing and debinding / sintering parameters for other base materials. This R&D work is ongoing for our own R&D, for customers who want their custom materials, and for a H2020 European project for implants. Materials now in progress are SiO2, SiC, Si3N4, stainless steel (316L), hydroxyapatite .
Fine details are one of the key needs of ceramic applications. What will be the resolution (XY, Z) of the ADMAFLEX 130 and will it use laser as a light source or DLP technology? Why did you choose the one over the other for printing ceramics?
Current x-y resolution for the 130 machine will be 50 microns, using DLP technology. Main reason to choose this over laser is the ability to homogeny project a full Z slice over the entire building x-y space in one go, rather than having to scan the entire surface with a laserdot.
What are the next steps for Admatec till the big day in September? Can you tell us something about future plans – are there any developments you want to talk about?
Admatec has two topics on its roadmap;
- Supporting a wider material portfolio. As mentioned before some potentially bigger markets will require special materials. Preferably Admatec will develop these materials with an established partner in such a market.
- Increasing size without compromising accuracy. Admatec is actively working on light source improvements. If necessary developing system ourselves to breakdown the current barriers of the DLP technology. Bigger building envelopes will push the limits and allow this technology a true manufacturing solution.
While doing so Admatec favors to keep an open source approach as much as possible. Enable your own materials, enjoy many setting possibilities that will allow you to perform research on the ADMAFLEX equipment. This journey just got started, we need to work together and provide the printing solutions for tomorrow.
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