[Image above] Credit: HRL Laboratories LLC; YouTube 

Innovations in 3-D printing made waves in 2015, and it’s clear that the technology will continue to evolve through this year.

Companies like auto manufacturer Local Motors plan to drive mass production of 3-D printed cars in 2016. And the revolution doesn’t stop there—it seems like there’s nowhere additive manufacturing won’t go. From 3-D printed concrete to electronics to glass, this technology is changing how we manufacture materials.

3-D printing is also changing the game when it comes to producing advanced ceramic materials. Last week, ceramic 3-D printing company Tethon 3D made news for filing a U.S. patent application for a novel powder-based compression-enhanced 3-D printer that aims to produce stronger, harder ceramics.

But the most recent technological breakthrough in 3-D printed ceramics comes from researchers at HRL Laboratories LLC in Malibu, Calif. The team has developed a way to additively manufacture ceramics that “overcomes the limits of traditional ceramic processing and enables high-temperature, high-strength ceramic components,” according to a recent HRL news release.

The approach uses a new resin formulation invented by Zak Eckel, HRL’s senior chemical engineer, and Chaoyin Zhou, HRL’s senior chemist. The resin can be 3-D printed into parts of almost any size and shape and can then be fired at 1000°C, converting the material into a fully dense ceramic that’s ten times stronger than comparable materials.

Processing ceramics is more challenging than processing other materials—like polymers or metals—because they can’t be cast or machined easily. Traditional processing methods consolidate ceramic parts from powders by sintering, which introduces porosity and limits the shape and strength of finished parts.

“With our new 3-D 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,” Tobias Schaedler, program manager at HRL, says in the release.

Check out this video from HRL that explains this new milestone in 3-D printing technology.

Credit: HRL Laboratories LLC; YouTube

The technology has a range of potential applications across many industries—specifically in the production of large components in jet engines, parts for hypersonic vehicles, intricate parts in microelectromechanical systems, and even electronic device packaging.

HRL is currently looking for a commercialization partner for this technology. If interested, contact innovation@hrl.com.

The paper, recently published in Science, is “Additive manufacturing of polymer derived ceramics” (DOI: 10.1126/science.aad2688).