Compared to processes that use polymers or metals, 3D printing of ceramics is currently less prevalent in the market. However, according to several estimates, the ceramic additive manufacturing industry is supposed to generate at least $3.6 billion by 2028. As in many countries, in France, there are more and more companies specializing in this technology. Founded in 2019 in Haute-Vienne, 3D Minerals designs and develops ceramic 3D printers based on an innovative and patented paste extrusion technology called clay deposition modeling. To learn more about this technology and discover its properties, 3Dnatives met up with Claude Schneider, the company’s co-founder.
3DN: Can you introduce yourself and 3D Minerals?
The 3D Minerals project was born out of noting the difficulties in implementing Robot Casting technology adapted to ceramics. This technique uses a plastic ceramic paste (the consistency of modeling clay) placed in a container under pressure and extruded through an extrusion nozzle.
SDM (Slurry Deposition Modeling) technology patented by 3D Minerals offers several advantages over Robot Casting technology using plastic paste. The liquid process allows continuous manufacturing (manufacturing of large parts in particular) without air bubbles. Implementation of the machining is simpler as the slurry tank can be easily displaced away from the extrusion head. Manufacturers can also use their coupons directly.
I surrounded myself with two partners with complementary experiences and knowledge to develop a company around this technology. As for me, I am a ceramics engineer with experience in operations, ceramic raw materials and management.
3DN: It has developed and patented the Slurry Deposition Modeling (SDM) process. How it works ?
The patent is based on a rapid reaction between the glide and the chemicals (auxiliaries) that allow the liquid to be converted into a paste suitable for extrusion. The wire deposited during printing has the property of solidifying over time in a controlled manner. All this makes it possible to change the mechanical properties of the paste during printing according to the details requested by our customers.
3DN: What different devices do you use? What are its characteristics?
We use 3 prototype machines that have allowed us to develop our process and which today allows us to manufacture trial parts for our customers.
– Big Revolution parts printer (the machine was initially used for Biopythos tractor)
– Cartesian printer for cutting up to 500 mm. This machine is mainly used for making artistic ceramics.
Automatic printer. We have incorporated our technology on a 6-axis lever and this makes it possible to produce large parts in complex shapes.
We also have machines planned for specific needs.
3DN: Internally, it also develops materials. Can you tell us more?
Instead, they are modifications of existing materials so that they can be printed with sufficient quality and speed. We also develop high performance additives for our customers. Thanks to this we can for example print a 500 liter jar (200 kg, height 180 cm) in 4 hours.
3DN: What are the advantages of 3D printing for ceramics?
3D printing in general and its ceramic applications make it possible to dispense with molds that are difficult to manufacture, expensive and often impossible to recycle. Thus, 3D printers make it possible to manufacture unique parts or small strings directly from a digital file. There are also simple figures that can only be made using this printing technique.
3DN: And what are its limits?
The limitation of our SDM technology is also the limitation of 3D printing in general: it is difficult to create horizontal surfaces in height without, for example, the use of struts. We can also say that this technology is not designed to compete with mass production in a large series of similar parts.
3DN: At the beginning of the year, I teamed up with Biopythos to manufacture earthenware. Why and how did this partnership happen?
Innovation management sometimes collides with the search for a first customer. We have solved this problem with this partnership that has just arrived in the order of the first machine by Biopythos. During the 3D Minerals launch phase, we were able to benefit from the use of Biopythos facilities. Biopythos, for its part, now offers custom-made wares to its winegrower clients.
3DN: What are the future projects for 3D Minerals?
3D Minerals has just launched its robotic printer, and this has already made it possible to sign a collaboration contract with an industry group and a future client. Over the slightly longer term, we will be strengthening our sales and design office teams and also reaching out to buildings that adapt as we grow. All of this will, of course, require strengthening SAS property rights.
3DN: A final word to our readers?
Innovation is in our team’s genes and we already have new ideas just waiting to see the light of day and get a patent.
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Cover photo credits: 3D Minerals