The grow platform portfolio team Bosch Advanced Ceramics has managed to use their unique 3D-printing process to make a sophisticated microreactor for high-temperature applications. The reactor was developed in a joint project together with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and chemical company BASF.
Developing a complex microreactor for high-temperature reactions
In cooperation with KIT and BASF, Bosch Advanced Ceramics has achieved a major breakthrough by developing a complex microreactor. This new reactor is made of technical ceramics and was fabricated through the use of additive manufacturing. As they are often used to research the fundamentals of chemical engineering processes, micro-reactors need to withstand extremely high temperatures and the harshest of conditions. It is only through the combination of its unique ceramic 3D-printing method and the special material conditions of the technical ceramics that Bosch Advanced Ceramics was able to meet the demanding standards of its customer BASF. The portfolio team managed to design and construct very small flow channels (of just 0.5 mm in width) in order to facilitate chemical reactions inside the microreactor.
Story of Success
BASF has long been working with KIT as a research partner. KIT has advanced knowledge about chemical process technology and designed the high-temperature micro-reactor.
As described above, BASF needed a special microreactor for research and carried out the design together with KIT. BAC’s contribution was to produce the unique geometry that can be used at high temperatures with its ceramic 3D printing. In the end, each party was able to bring its very specific expertise to the table.
We have been in contact with BASF for a long time. Before Klaus Prosiegel joined Bosch, he was working for BASF for more than ten years, and we personally knew a Principal Researcher from BASF. KIT is an important research institute for Bosch as well as for BASF.
Based on the experience we gained over several years of additive manufacturing, we were able to quickly find the key parameters.
We had specific know-how from the field of additive manufacturing and expertise in product design as it relates to ceramics production. Teamwork is always one of the crucial factors for success. We achieve our goals only through the interaction of our skills, knowledge, and team.
About Bosch Advanced Ceramics
Bosch Advanced Ceramics aims to use technical ceramics to improve a wide range of products.Its core area of expertise and unique selling point are the manufacture of high complex geometries in a wide variety of processes, including 3D printing, injection molding.The focus is being an engineering partner for sophisticated ceramic components either as pure ceramic or with functional coatings. Bosch Advanced Ceramics supports itis customers along the entire value chain. From the first design proposals up to turnkey products using rapid manufacturing of prototypes and series production. Bosch Advanced Ceramics is a technology leader in the field of ceramic 3D printing. The more complex the component gemoetries, the greater is the customer related advantage.
Advantages of Additive Manufacturing
Without additive manufacturing, it would be impossible to make a ceramic reactor with such elaborate internal structures at a reasonable cost. It is 3D printing alone that enables the redesign of components, since structures specially adapted to the process and required function can be implemented with greater flexibility – in a manner that is true to the principle of process-specific apparatus engineering.
For KIT and the BASF microreactor, this means that this structure allows the temperatures and material flows in the reactor to be precisely controlled, which opens up new opportunities for optimizing reactions. The expertise of Bosch Advanced Ceramics made an essential contribution to a successful implementation through its mastery of the manufacturing process and its know-how regarding necessary design adaptations that ensure functionality and manufacturability.
The internal structure of the micro-reactor was particularly challenging since the small channels are not allowed to contain any residual slurry.
In additive manufacturing, the products were built up layer by layer (with each layer just 25 µm wide), and at the beginning of each layer, the product was put into a ceramic slurry. After the product was lifted out of the slurry, the specific area would be hardened with UV light, and slurry would be left in the remaining area. After the part reaches its total length and is finished, it is necessary to remove the remaining slurry.
The grow platform helped us to implement the right technologies, to hire highly skilled research employees, and to become better known in the market afterwards, of course. The financial support allowed us to purchase a new 3D printer.
The micro-reactor is one example of the high-level ceramic components that we manufacture for the chemical, electronic, and medical markets. This great success contributes to the overall morale and future growth of the members of our team.
About the material
BASF and KIT chose the material of aluminum oxide due to its unique properties, which include strength and resistance to temperature, abrasion, and corrosion. This material is ideally suited to meet all the requirements demanded of the component. The heat resistance and high strength of the material allow it to work safely under extreme process conditions. The thermal conductivity of 37 W/mK enables good temperature control, and the material’s low thermal expansion of 7 x 10-6 K-1 helps to ensure that only minor distortions occur in the apparatus, even when temperature differences are large. In the actual reactor design, this is particularly important with regard to the outer cooling jacket. In this area of the design, a temperature drop of several 100 K per millimeter occurs during operation.
Depending on the reactant inside the reactor, the corrosion resistance of the reactor is particularly advantageous. The use of ceramics allows a long service life to be achieved, which is also a crucial economic aspect. Moreover, the low electrical conductivity and translucency of the ceramics make the interior of the reactor accessible to various measurement and control techniques that generally cannot be used with reactors made of metal.