Many 3D printing technologies involve heat in some way, for example, applying lasers to a powder to fuse the layers together.  But researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology are working on "mixing ceramic materials with water to create a paste that is then extruded to form manufactured parts" and exposing them to low temperatures to freeze the water to set the components.  Freeze-form extrusion fabrication as it is known is being researched by Mingyang Li and Dr. Lie Tang* under the supervision of Drs. Robert Landers and Ming Leu.  The team recently received the ASME Blackall Machine Tool and Gage Award for their work which is focused on determining the impact of air bubble entrapment and extrusion force on extrusion velocity and settling time.  Increased force (to a point) and reduced air entrapment were found to decrease settling time.  As with all methods of Additive Manufacturing, speed is always good.

So why do we care?  If this approach becomes technically reliable and commercially viable, it could impact the way ceramic parts are made.  And since ceramic materials are popular in the aerospace and automotive industries (because they are hard and heat-resistant), freeze-form extrusion fabrication could become very hot.

 

*Tieshu Huang, Michael S. Mason, Gregory E. Hilmas, and Ming C. Leu were also named authors.