Additive Manufacturing of ceramics – a new technology on its way to series production

13.08.2018 | Nicolai Sauer

The production of ceramic components at Bosch has a tradition of more than 100 years.
Back in 1939 Bosch had already filed the first patent application for injection molding of technical ceramics. Since then, various manufacturing processes complying with the standards of the automotive industry have been brought to perfection at several Bosch plants.
We continuously adapt and refine the latest technologies such as 3-D printing. In this way, for several years now Bosch has been active in the additive manufacturing of ceramic components using state-of-the-art technology, benefitting from its long years of experience in processing high-quality ceramics.

We are CERIX!
CERIX is a Robert Bosch start-up that was founded in 2016. We pool expert knowledge and competence in ceramics manufacturing from within the company, providing components not only for internal Bosch business divisions, but also for external customers.
Based on the increasingly challenging technical specifications of various products used in fields such as medicine, chemical engineering, industrial equipment, sensor technology and the consumer sector, we see significant potential to enhance considerably the performance of such products using technical ceramics. We are able to offer solutions for technical challenges where traditional materials have long ago reached their limits.

We accompany our customers from single component manufacturing to series production.
We support our customers with our extensive engineering expertise when defining a component design that is compatible with ceramics production. Our long years of experience in CIM technology create an optimal synergy with additive manufacturing, as we are able to produce highly complex components with consistent technical features, cost-efficiently as well as in small and large quantities.
Due to the fast growing demand in the field, we are continuously enlarging our 3D-printing capacity.
The benefits of additive manufacturing are clear: zero tooling costs, as well as the possibility to implement design modifications at any time.
That means for our customers an unprecedented flexibility and new potentials in product design.
In close cooperation with the additive manufacturing OEMs, we propel the further development of production techniques.
Our customers additionally benefit from the existing quality standards of the BOSCH group in use in various divisions.

From idea to the final additive product
In general, the process starts with the CAD model. In close cooperation with the customer, we develop a geometry of the component to satisfy all requirements. Now we can realise new geometries such as internal channels or recess cuts (undercut) that have not been accessible until now using conventional manufacturing techniques. The model can subsequently be printed via stereolithography. The printing process is followed by a procedure to remove excessive material and to prepare the component for the subsequent process steps. Different strategies and techniques are applied depending on the material and the component geometry. Afterwards the components undergo the same thermal process as CIM components. Once they are sintered, the components have all of the required features to meet the customer’s needs.

In most cases, post-processing is not necessary as the process itself is already very precise. However, some applications have especially narrow tolerances, which is where our competence in hard machining of ceramic components comes into effect. In this way, we are able to offer our customer everything from a single source.

Series Production by means of Additive Manufacturing
The Bosch quality standard is the highest priority for us. Therefore we follow the same standard as with each other manufacturing process. Concretely, this means a continuous process capability study of all process steps from the CAD model to the sintered component. We analyse each individual process to eliminate potential sources for error.
Traceability is another major feature of our quality standard.
The close collaboration with the plant manufacturers is beneficial for both parties as we actively develop the 3D-printing technology together, from the prototype to series production by additive manufacturing. The development of this production method has progressed enough that series production using additive manufacturing has become cost-efficient, and we are already producing our first commercial orders.

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