Manufacturing ceramics can be quite challenging, especially to develop prototypes ahead of large-scale production. Breakthroughs in the field of Additive Manufacturing (AM) are on the verge of reinventing the manufacture of ceramics and their applications. To this day, Additive Manufacturing of silica was mainly used for sand casting molds, but an increasing number of studies are investigating the manufacture of silica for direct applications.
3D printed mold in silica sand from Admatec
What is Silica?
Silicon oxide SiO2 or silica is an oxide ceramic, usually found as a white powder. It is a high-performance ceramic with many applications.
Silica is a very abundant oxide on Earth’s surface. Combined with other oxides such as alumina Al2O3, iron oxide FeO or calcium oxide CaO, they form the silicate family of materials.
It has various crystal structures and is mostly found as quartz when it is crystallized. A crystalline structure is a structure where a pattern repeats itself in all 3 directions of space, it is characterized by order in opposition to the amorphous phase where no apparent order can be found.
Silica sand is also the most abundant type of sand and has been used in a broad range of applications such as the manufacture of glass or molds for investment casting. The amorphous form of silica is called fused quartz and is widely used for its transparency in applications such as optics, optical fibers, or laboratory equipment.
More recently, silica has found applications in aerogels, a form of material that presents ultra-low density and thermal conductivity for thermal insulation.
There are many crystalline structures for silica, the most common being α-quartz, tridymite, and cristobalite. Silica is a moderate hardness ceramic with 7.0 on Mohs’s scale for quartz form. Quartz has a low density of 2.6 g/cm3 but can drop to 2.2 g/cm3 for the amorphous phase of silica.
Silica is a good electric insulator with an electrical resistivity from 10^12 Ohm.cm for crystallized structures to 10^18 Ohm.cm for the amorphous phase.
With a melting point of 1730°C and high thermal shock resistance, silica is perfect for refractory applications for metals.
3D printing with Silica
The AM technique used to manufacture silica sand materials is through Digital Light Processing (DLP) a type of stereolithography.
The DLP process delivers 3D printed parts of silica sand with good mechanical and surface properties to sand cast high-quality metallic parts. Manufacturing silica-based-ceramic core for the casting of internal structures of hollow blades requires complex structures and high precision.
The current traditional process for this application is injection molding, an expensive and time-consuming method. 3D printing offers an alternative to this process by printing directly a ready-to-use casting core for investment casting.
Moreover, in the DLP process used by our printing service, the part is printed in a bottom-up configuration which only requires a small amount of slurry compared to other configurations.
If you are looking for a silica 3D printing service, you have come to the right place.
The first step to start 3D printing in silica is to have an STL or OBJ file of the object you want to print.
You can upload your file to Beamler’s platform and our team will provide you with a quote as soon as possible. Don’t worry, all uploads are secure.