If you’ve worked with glass, plastics or some metals, chances are the product you had in front of you was formed through the process of sintering: using heat or pressure to compact powder into a solid mass without melting it. The process isn’t new to the manufacturing landscape, but it is a heavy energy consumer, leaving manufacturers wondering how to reduce their energy footprint with growing costs and a larger push towards “greener” business practices. Enter cold sintering.
Developed by researchers at Penn State University*, cold sintering introduces liquid to the procedure in both a dissolution and evaporation process. Doing so allows the exchange, diffusion and growth of particles to happen at a much faster rate, saving time and energy. Comparing the two forms of sintering side by side:
|Traditional Sintering||Cold Sintering|
|Temperature||Approx. 1000 degrees Celsius||Approx. 200 degrees Celsius|
|Time||Several hours||20-30 minutes|
Time and energy savings are easy to see, as is the possibility of higher output at a faster rate, but how else could cold sintering change the manufacturing landscape? The research of the Penn State team has analysts wondering about cold sintering’s application around materials that wouldn’t otherwise be able to handle the high temperatures of traditional sintering. Ceramic building materials, insulation for homes, electrical chips and even biomedical implants are being theorized for cold sintering. With a process that takes less time to bake a meal in an oven, businesses could respond to demand for building materials, computer chips and so much more.
On-demand manufacturing is the way the industry is shifting, with additive technologies changing the way businesses fundamentally operate, but how do you think cold sintering will change the manufacturing process for materials that can’t be scaled for 3D printing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.