YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Northeast Ohio has a proud tradition of making ceramics. East Liverpool was once called the pottery capital of the world. Youngstown Business Incubator hopes to continue that tradition with new technology. In Youngstown, YBI debuted a machine capable of 3D printing ceramics.

This was the first machine available for public use in the United States. It’s used to make small ceramic parts that are very difficult if not impossible to make in the traditional way.

“You’re seeing metal printing become more and more common. Ceramics are really the next frontier,” said CEO Barb Ewing.

Ewing said she sees this emerging technology as an asset to Youngstown businesses which can commission YBI to produce ceramic parts for them.

“We want to engage students with it and get YSU students understanding the applications and how they can use it, creating new companies,” said Ewing.

But how does it work?

“On one hand, we enjoyed the great advantages of ceramic, and at the same time you can easily, at no additional cost, get any geometry that fits the application need,” said Chief Business Officer with XJet 3D Dror Danai.

A delegation from the Israeli-based company XJet 3D said for commercial products, plastic 3D printed components are often used as prototypes, not in the finished product.

“Great geometry, but also material that is for production, material that you can really use in an operation room, for example,” said Danai.

A Rolls Royce with ceramic 3D printed parts is already driving around the streets of London.

They say the printer has ceramic material suspended in liquid and prints one layer at a time. Each layer is about one-quarter the width of a strand of hair.

“You print the real material. The software will put another material which is a space holder. At the end of the printing, you put it in water and the water will melt away,” said Danai.

This process of inserting a dissolvable placeholder makes it so entire components with moving parts can be printed at the same time.

In 2019, X Jet won the TCT award at a global competition in innovation for 3D printing for the space holder material they invented.