Lithoz America, established in 2017, builds and sells additive manufacturing equipment to produce high-performance ceramic parts that are widely used in the electronics, aerospace, and biomedical industries.
Additive manufacturing of ceramics offers unprecedented precision for features as small as 150 microns, such as microscopic holes and etched walls for electronic applications, to components up to 300 millimeters (nearly a foot) long, such as ceramic casting cores.
The company also sells advanced ceramic materials for a whole host of additive-manufacturing applications, from valves, bearings, insulator components, and fuel nozzles for rockets and airplanes to bone-replacement implants, cutting tools, thread guides used in the textile industry, and casting cores to make turbine blades. These ceramic materials include aluminum oxide and zirconium oxide.
The company’s latest offering is silicon nitride, which is known for high-heat resistance (up to 1,200 degrees Celsius) and its anti-infective properties, making the material useful for permanent implants. Lithoz is the first company to offers silicon nitride for additive manufacturing applications.
Lithoz America is a subsidiary of Lithoz GmbH, which was founded in 2011 by Johannes Homa and Johannes Benedikt, who formed the company as a spin-off at the Vienna University of Technology. Lithoz America has been at the Rensselaer Technology Park Campus since April 2017.
Prior to Lithoz America’s formation, Homa and Benedikt were looking for a prime location in the United States to establish their new subsidiary. They found the ideal location at the Technology Park through their connection with Shawn Allan, who is now vice president for Lithoz America.
Allan, who has served in a number of company roles over the last 15 years at the Technology Park, met the company founders at a ceramics conference and set up a tour of the Technology Park and the surrounding Capital Region area.
“The Technology Park provides a great mix of office and lab space, which is not something that’s easy to find,” Allan says. “It’s also an easily accessible location for our customers, and that was a really important factor. The company representatives were very impressed with the environment here.”
Lithoz representatives were also introduced to the Rensselaer Center for Automation Technologies and Systems (CATS), a NY State-designated Center for Advanced Technology. In addition, Allan and CATS researchers helped the company connect with different New York State business and R&D resources, such as the Empire State Development Corporation.
“All of these attributes convinced Lithoz to locate its subsidiary here,” says Allan.
Lithoz has about 40 employees at its Vienna headquarters and three employees so far at the Technology Park. Sales, R&D and machine and software production primarily take place in Vienna. Demonstrations and feasibility projects, as well as US sales and marketing, are generally conducted in the company’s lab at the Technology Park.
Lithoz’s additive manufacturing process is called lithography-based ceramic manufacturing (LCM), which leverages computerized 3-D design data and layer-by-layer material deposition to build the final part.
“We are really the market leader in the rapid production of these ceramic materials using an additive manufacturing method that is cost effective. In addition, ceramic materials can be formed into previously impossible shapes,” Allan says. “We make prototyping in small lots affordable that many times are more expensive through other methods.”