3D printing of ceramic
materials with photocurable resins



The aim of this project is to optimise and develop ceramic composite materials with light-curable resins that can be used in open source photopolymerization 3D printers. Work will also be done on improving post-processing times and the final properties of the parts.

The final products developed will be advanced ceramics of possible use in sectors such as the manufacture of special parts, jewellery, semiconductors, catalysts, etc.


Vat Photopolymerization (VPP)

As in any 3D printing process, the first step is to generate a 3D model using CAD. The model is then laminated to the desired layer height. The file generated with all the printing information is exported to the machine and the light-curing material is added. The printing process begins when the platform descends into the resin tank, leaving a space equal to the layer height between the platform and the bottom of the tank. A laser projects the light image across the bottom of the tank, activating the photoinitiators and curing the resin layer. The cured layer is separated from the tank bottom and the build platform is raised (the layer height), allowing uncured resin to flow. This process is repeated, curing the new layer, which will adhere to the previous one, successively until the part is complete.

This light-curing technology

encompasses several techniques such as:
· SLA (stereolithography),
· DLP (digital light processing),
· LCD or MSLA (masked stereolithography)
· other emerging variations.

The post-processing of this technique

begins with the removal of the construction supports (if any), the piece must be carefully cleaned to remove the uncured resin and, in the case of ceramics, firing is carried out to obtain the final characteristics of the piece.




Typically, VPP resins include a mixture of monomers, oligomers and photoinitiators that are formed into a hardened polymeric material in a process known as curing. Most photopolymerization reactions are chain growth polymerisations initiated by the absorption of visible or ultraviolet light. In this case, the photoinitiators absorb the light and then transfer the energy to the monomers, which changes their structural properties leading to a hardening of the material as a result of cross-linking (creation of polymer chains).




By not printing point by point (as in other 3D printing technologies) but layer by layer, functional objects can be produced quickly. The duration of the process depends on the size and complexity of the object.



VPP technology makes it possible to manufacture high-resolution parts without the need for additional finishing processes. It allows the creation of complex pieces that cannot be achieved with traditional techniques, especially in ceramics.



Parts made by photopolymerisation are hard enough to be machined and can also be used in the creation of master moulds for other processes. In the case of ceramics, parts can be obtained with a density comparable to other traditional techniques.



Need for supports: For overhanging geometries it is necessary to generate supports, otherwise the overhanging areas will detach from the rest of the layer and may stick to the bottom of the resin tank.


Made by Photopolymerization (VPP)




The 3DKeralux project is done in the ITC.
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