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Manufactured components also have an excellent surface quality. Unfinished surface roughness for alumina is Ra of ~0.4 μm and for zirconia Ra of ~0.6 μm. Figure 3 shows a few of the complex geometries achievable with LCM technology. To be able to ensure growth and success of the company, Lithoz has a strong orientation toward R&D and focusing on development of new materials and production systems. The company developed its first product, the CeraFab 7500 printer, for the powder injection molding industry. The printer has a building envelope of 76 mm x 43 mm x 150 mm and a resolution of 40 μm. The system is designed to manufacture small, precise components. Lithoz currently is developing machines with larger building envelopes. For example, the CeraFab 8500 prints in a 115 mm x 64 mm x 150 mm envelope. Besides designing next-generation LCM machines, Lithoz researchers have expanded the portfolio of ceramic compositions. Lithoz has developed silicon nitride-, cordierite-, tricalcium phosphate-, magnesia-, and silica-based powders for casting cores. These are in addition to existing alumina and zirconia materials. Because Lithoz broadened the available range of materials, lithographic AM of high-performance ceramics should see growing demand for widespread applications. High precision and accuracy of the LCM technology process offers interesting and unique opportunities in fields such as biomedical applications, catalysis, or refractories. Lithoz scales up To date, the company has installed more than 20 systems for customers at leading international research institutions, including the Fraunhofer Institute IKTS in Dresden (Germany) and Fraunhofer HTL in Bayreuth (Germany). In addition, several successful companies, including Robert Bosch GmbH (Germany) and Lapp GmbH (Germany), have invested in LCM technology. Ceramco Inc., a new customer in the U.S., will install a CeraFab 7500 this summer. Thomas Hendriksen, CEO of Ceramco Inc. (Center Conway, N.H.), states, “Ceramic components made by AM methods have always had problems due to the layered structure and related anisotropy. Thus, the materials lacked the high density typical for fine ceramics—until the Lithoz machine came along. The high resolution of the Lithoz CeraFab 7500 demonstrates surface quality that is competitive with traditional forming methods, and it achieves full density in high-purity alumina and Y-TZP-type zirconia by industry standards, both of which are the main materials Ceramco makes parts from. So this machine will complement our ability to manufacture ceramic parts with complex geometry, and enable us to provide new parts to customers in short order with a quality we can stand behind; it’s not just a 3-D rendering of a part that has no utility anymore.” Ceramco is Lithoz’s second American customer. Lithoz sold a unit in April 2015 to an undisclosed buyer. Sales drive growth, and growth demands space. After moving into a new building in 2014—and expanding it in summer 2015—the company is again on the verge of expanding its business premises. Lithoz requires more space Figure 3. Alumina parts made by LCM technology. Applications include sensor mountings, impellers, and gears. to meet increasing demand for customized materials and orders for LCM technology. “This is a challenge which will be solved quickly and easily”, says Homa. He is convinced that this will not be the last time that the company will need more space. According to Homa, growth affects many departments in a small company. For example, from his point of view, it is more difficult to adapt necessary communication structures to the company’s rapid growth because of the increasing facility size and American Ceramic Society Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 3 | www.ceramics.org 25 Credit: Lithoz Want to save energy, improve productivity and increase your profitability? Then maximize your kiln load with Blasch engineered low-mass kiln furniture. Visit us in Booth #410 blaschceramics.com


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