Z3DLab Has Created ZTi-Powder – A Titanium-Ceramic Metal 3D Printing Powder
3D printing is growing big with every passing day and for obvious reasons. However, 3D printers are only as good as the material being fed into them. Welcome to Z3DLab, a French 3D printing company that specializes in metal additive manufacturing by making use of Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and is also known for developing innovative metal 3D printing materials. Z3DLab has recently created the very first metal composite material that is said to have combined the strength of ceramic zirconia along with the malleability of titanium. Both of the mentioned biocompatible materials are already being employed by industries in manufacturing processes. They find their specific uses in dental, medial, aerospace and automotive industries.
The newly created material has been as ZTi-Powder and is the first titanium-ceramic composite intended for metal 3D printing. It is being touted as the world’s hardest material available for selective laser melting. It was patented officially back in September of 2015 however has only been presented recently by Z3DLab at the 3D Medical Expo that was held at MECC in Maastricht. The company talked about the materials’ properties and composition along with the two unique variations of the composite powder that have been created specifically for aerospace and medical applications.
When you look at the manufacturing process of parts that are high-demand, the materials being used make a lot of difference to the manufacturing process. Why? Because each composite offers unique heat resisting, mechanical, conductive, abrasion and chemical resisting properties. The most advanced SLM metal 3D printers wouldn’t be able to perform the required task of say 3D printing a dental implant if the biocompatible material being fed wasn’t the right one.
When you look at medical additive manufacturing applications like 3D printed bone or dental implants, you’ll find out that titanium is among the list of most commonly used materials. This particular material is biocompatible while offering strength and resistance to bodily fluids. It also features an elasticity that is similar to human bone. However, at the very same time it has some shortcomings; it has the potential to cause allergies and offers low abrasion resistance. According to Z3DLab, “It was discovered that the Titanium alloy has a low hardness value and poor wear resistance and a poor resistance to oxidation in valves and pin connections. When it is in an oxygen depleted environment such as dental or bone implants, it is then capable of releasing Aluminum and Vanadium ions in body fluids, which is a potential source of allergies.”
Moving on to Zirconia, which is a ceramic material and quite a recommended one when you’re into aerospace and medical 3D printing. It is also biocompatible and offers elasticity that is similar to human bone. It is highly resistant to abrasion and wear while being 50% harder than titanium. It is lightweight and can survive temperatures of over 1,000°C. The only shortcoming is that it’s not as malleable as titanium and therefore working with it is quite difficult.
Z3D Lab said, “ZTi-Powder was designed in response, among others, to solving these issues by intimately incorporating Titanium and Zirconia in a single material. ZTi-Powder is the hardest material in the world for Additive Manufacturing by Laser Melting opening new, unexplored perspectives with global reach.”
The best advantage that ZTi-Powder has to offer when it comes to 3D printing applications is the fact that it virtually takes the risk of imparting any allergies out of the equation whether it is being used in 3D printed dental or bone implants, plates, prostheses, screws, staples or more. The company further added that although the tests have been conducted using SLM 3D printers, any powder bed and laser employing metal 3D printer can make use of this material.
Owing to its high resistance to heat along with its strength, ZTi-Powder is also quite ideal for aerospace 3D printing applications, however, the company still created a bit slightly different version for this particular task. This particular variation has aluminum and vanadium in it as well. Why are these two not a part of the medical aimed variant? That’s because these two trigger allergies in human body.
Z3DLab is also hopeful that ZTi-Powder will find application in other industries as well such as automobile engineering while allowing for exploring new option in science and energy research. Z3DLab was created in 2014 in collaboration with CEA-Liten (the Laboratory of Innovation for New Energy Technologies and Nanomaterial), the CNRS (National Science Research Center) and the LSPM (Process and Materials Science Lab).