As a pioneer in ceramic 3D printing, Lithoz has put much time and effort into making its technology viable for production-grade applications. While this is the end goal for many companies in AM, Lithoz has recently chosen a different path, going back to its roots to bring to market a lower cost, entry-level ceramic additive manufacturing system: the CeraFab Lab L30.
The 3D printer, which boasts lower upfront costs than Lithoz’s production-grade systems, is designed with one key idea in mind: accessibility. In other words, Lithoz set out to build a ceramic 3D printer that would be suitable for research labs, application and material developers and even industrial users.
We had the opportunity to learn about the CeraFab Lab L30 in some detail thanks to an exclusive interview with Dr. Johannes Benedikt, Lithoz’s Chief Technology Officer, but we are now getting a closer look than ever before. Lithoz’s newly released video shows the starter system up close and personal.
Closing a gap in the market
After growing its production-grade 3D printer portfolio—most notably with the CeraFab System series—Lithoz realized that there was still an unaddressed gap in the ceramic AM market. Specifically, there was no true solution for researchers or application and material developers looking for high-quality capabilities, machine flexibility and a lower price point.
The CeraFab Lab L30 stands up on all three fronts: the system integrates the same rotating vat and mechanics as Lithoz’s production systems and is thus capable of producing high-quality parts; it is an open platform, meaning that it can work with a limitless range of oxide ceramic slurries; and it is available at a much lower price point than production-grade ceramic AM machines, making it accessible to a far wider range of users.
Lithoz has achieved this lower cost in a few ways. For one, the CeraFab Lab L30 is smaller than the CeraFab System series: the former has a max build size of 76 x 43 x 170 mm, while the latter has build envelopes up to 192 x 120 x 500 mm. The entry-level 3D printer also has fewer automation features, which are essential to ensuring repeatability in the production-grade systems. This also functions to give the user more control over print parameters in the CeraFab Lab L30, which is vital for material and application development.
Beyond the lower hardware costs, the CeraFab Lab L30 has lower operational costs than other available printers on the market. This is due in large part to the machine’s low material consumption, which is also a key differentiator of all Lithoz CeraFab 3D printers. The CeraFab Lab utilizes an upside-down build process that requires as little as 15 ml of slurry to print. Further, any small amount of leftover material can be reused without the need for removal. This approach also contributes to faster setup and part removal times.
The core idea behind the CeraFab Lab L30, as Dr. Benedikt succinctly explained, “is to have a machine with which researchers can work not only on materials but also on applications. When the application is developed, it can be easily scaled up using the production system because the optical system, parameters and materials are the same.”
The ideal entry into ceramic AM
The CeraFab Lab L30 3D printer was designed by Lithoz to balance cost and quality: optimizing one without compromising on the other. Beyond the price point, however, is the fact that the machine takes the user into account, with easy-to-use features that reduce the learning curve for ceramic additive manufacturing.
Ultimately, Lithoz aims to make ceramic additive manufacturing more accessible so that more materials and applications can be developed using the high-quality standards of Lithoz’s technology. More materials and applications will, in turn, lead to the proliferation of production-grade ceramic 3D printing across many industries, from healthcare to aerospace.
Lithoz recently showcased the system’s capability with the production of an alumina aerospike nozzle. The case study serves to demonstrate the CeraFab Lab L30’s ability to produce complex geometries with high-resolution and excellent surface quality, meaning that parts do not require expensive post-processing such as machining and grinding after the printing. With a slice thickness of 25 µm to 100 µm and a lateral resolution as fine as 50 µm, the entry-level 3D printer is within the high quality range of the production-grade CeraFab System series.
So, whether you are a researcher exploring the viability of a new ceramic 3D printing material, an application developer seeking to compare the advantages of 3D printing vs conventional ceramic production, or an industrial company optimizing an existing component for ceramic AM, the CeraFab Lab L30 is a promising option.
The CeraFab Lab L30 is imbued with over a decade of ceramic AM experience, packaging Lithoz’s high quality standards in a more accessible, cost-friendly model. Those interested in getting a closer look at the new ceramic 3D printing platform can schedule a live demo with Lithoz. Following an all-virtual launch, the ceramic AM machine is also expected to feature at a number of upcoming international ceramic industry events.
This article was published in collaboration with Lithoz.