Bosch 3D prints microreactor using technical ceramics

As part of a 3D printing project conducted with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the chemicals company BASF, Bosch has successfully conducted the fabrication of a 3D printed microreactor.

The application is said to be the first one completed with technical ceramics. The choice for technical ceramics is due to the fact that microreactors can house chemical reactions, hence the need of a material that can withstand extreme conditions caused by high-temperature chemical reactions.

To control and monitor a chemical reaction, a reactor needs to have hardness, heat resistance, and complex structures inside,” says Klaus Prosiegel, sales manager at the Bosch startup Advanced Ceramics, based in southern Germany. “3D-printed technical ceramics bring these excellent properties to the table.”

Visual inspection machine to monitor quality standards

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In this specific case, “the challenge, however, was to find a process that was capable of producing the complex structures inside a ceramic reactor,” Prosiegel says. To address this issue, the startup’s ten-strong team combined their company’s two core competencies: technical ceramics and 3D printing.  

BASF is now using this microreactor in basic research, since it allows to monitor chemical reactions under ideal temperature conditions. Furthermore, it requires fewer raw materials and less energy than large reactors. Experts can analyze these small-scale results and extrapolate them for large-scale implementation, a press communication reads.

Cross-section of a ceramic microreactor. All images via Bosch

This is just like a chef trying out a new recipe on a small scale first before putting the dish on the menu,” Prosiegel says. That is why the next step is to print 10 to 20 more reactors with the same design for BASF. In view of the conceivable further potential applications for technical ceramics in the chemicals sector, Prosiegel sees a bright future ahead: “After all, almost every laboratory crucible is made of technical ceramics,” he says. It will be a while before he and his colleagues run out of work.

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