Ceramic parts have been used on space rockets and airplanes for years for being lightweight and resistant to incredibly high temperatures, but a team of engineers from Malibu think that their crackproof 3-D printed ceramics could take air flight by storm soon.
California engineers believe that their newly developed method comes with a huge advantage – the ceramic parts do not break that easily. Plus, customizing space shuttle parts and 3-D printing them would considerably lower costs.
The industry has been using ceramic tiles on space rocket parts for quite some time in an attempt to shield them from the monster heat generated during their trip through the atmosphere.
The new type of ceramics could also be used on commercial airplanes, making the dream of a hypersonic jet that can travel from the U.S.’s East Coast to Japan in a few hours a reality.
Tobias Schaedler, a chief engineer at HRL Laboratories who led the team that invented the new material, explained that at hypersonic speeds, i.e. speeds that are up to 10 times greater than the speed of sound, any craft would gain incredible heat due to air friction.
Schaedler thinks that the crackproof material can be used to coat hypersonic jets to make them resistant to tremendous heat. His team developed a special resin that can be inserted into a special 3-D printer, which can later produce any type of parts for space shuttles and aircrafts.
The parts, however, need to be fired at high temperatures for the resin to morph into crackproof ceramics. Laboratory tests had shown that the new material can bear heats of up to 3,000 degrees F, or 1,700 degrees C. Additionally, it is 10 times sturdier than other ceramics currently in use.
On the other hand, it is very hard to handle ceramics and give it a shape with conventional technology because unlike metals or plastics it is not as flexible or easily to cast. But the HRL Laboratories team found a method to make ceramics more malleable.
In a recently published paper in the journal science, the engineers explained how it is done. First they need a pre-ceramic resin that acts just like a polymer. Next, they give it a shape through a 3-D printing machine, and last they heat up the resin to turn it into ceramics. The only drawback is that the material slightly shrinks during the process. But because the shrinkage is predictable it should not pose any additional hurdles.
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