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Title:
SOL CONTAINING NANO ZIRCONIA PARTICLES FOR USE IN ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING PROCESSES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF 3-DIMENSIONAL ARTICLES
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2016/191534
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The invention relates to the use of a printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process for producing a 3-dim article, the printing sol comprising solvent(s), nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles in an amount from 2 to 25 vol.-% with respect to the volume of the sol, the average primary particle size of the nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles being in a range up to 50 nm, a first monomer being a polymerizable surface modification agent represented by formula A-B, with A being capable of attaching to the surface of the nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles and B being a radiation curable group, optionally a second monomer, the second monomer comprising at least one radiation curable moiety but no acidic or silane group(s), photo initiator(s). The invention also relates to a ceramic article obtainable according to such a process.

Inventors:
MAYR, Helmar (Carl-Schurz-Strasse 1, Neuss, Neuss, DE)
KORTEN, Malte (ESPE Platz, Seefeld, Seefeld, DE)
ANDRES, Christine M. (360 Spring Street, Apartment 131Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55102, US)
KOLB, Brant U. (3M Center, Post Office Box 33427Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55133-3427, US)
HAUPTMANN, Holger (Carl-Schurz-Strasse 1, Neuss, Neuss, DE)
SCHECHNER, Gallus (Carl-Schurz-Strasse 1, Neuss, Neuss, DE)
JAHNS, Michael (Carl-Schurz-Strasse 1, Neuss, Neuss, DE)
HUMPAL, Kathleen M. (3M Center, Post Office Box 33427Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55133-3427, US)
LACKEY, Melissa A. (3M Center, Post Office Box 33427Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55133-3427, US)
PENNINGTON, Paul D. (3M Center, Post Office Box 33427Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55133-3427, US)
HENDRICKSON, Mark J. (3M Center, Post Office Box 33427Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55133-3427, US)
Application Number:
US2016/034273
Publication Date:
December 01, 2016
Filing Date:
May 26, 2016
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
3M INNOVATIVE PROPERTIES COMPANY (3M Center, Post Office Box 33427Saint Paul, Minnesota, 55133-3427, US)
International Classes:
C04B35/486; A61C5/08; A61C5/10; A61C13/00; A61C13/08; A61C13/083; A61C13/09; A61K6/02; B28B1/00; B29C67/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2001013815A12001-03-01
WO2013055432A12013-04-18
WO2001013815A12001-03-01
WO2013055432A12013-04-18
WO2009085926A22009-07-09
Foreign References:
EP2404590A12012-01-11
EP2157067A12010-02-24
EP2151214A12010-02-10
US20090321971A12009-12-31
US7927538B22011-04-19
US6283997B12001-09-04
US8003040B22011-08-23
US20070072762A12007-03-29
US6955776B12005-10-18
US20030222366A12003-12-04
US20100249305A12010-09-30
US8133831B22012-03-13
US20140183799A12014-07-03
US8329296B22012-12-11
US7429422B22008-09-30
US201562127569P2015-03-03
US5453262A1995-09-26
US5652192A1997-07-29
US7241437B22007-07-10
US4575330A1986-03-11
US6283997B12001-09-04
Other References:
GERALD MITTERAMSKOGLER ET AL: "Light curing strategies for lithography-based additive manufacturing of customized ceramics", ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING, vol. 1-4, 1 October 2014 (2014-10-01), pages 110 - 118, XP055225474, ISSN: 2214-8604, DOI: 10.1016/j.addma.2014.08.003
EMRE ZKOL ET AL: "Potentials of the Direct inkjet printing method for manufacturing 3Y-TZP based dental restorations", JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN CERAMIC SOCIETY, ELSEVIER SCIENCE PUBLISHERS, BARKING, ESSEX, GB, vol. 32, no. 10, 1 March 2012 (2012-03-01), pages 2193 - 2201, XP028482193, ISSN: 0955-2219, [retrieved on 20120307], DOI: 10.1016/J.JEURCERAMSOC.2012.03.006
EBERT J ET AL: "Direct Inkjet Printing of Dental Prostheses Made of Zirconia", INTERNET CITATION, 9 March 2009 (2009-03-09), pages 673 - 676, XP002745570, Retrieved from the Internet [retrieved on 20151005]
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BUSS, Melissa E., et al. (3M Center, Office of Intellectual Property CounselPost Office Box 3342, Saint Paul Minnesota, 55133-3427, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. Use of a printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process for producing a 3-dim article, the printing sol comprising

solvent(s),

nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles in an amount from 2 to 25 vol.-% with respect to the volume of the sol, the average primary particle size of the nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles being in a range up to 50 nm,

a first monomer being a polymerizable surface modification agent represented by formula A-B, with A being capable of attaching to the surface of the nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles and B being a radiation curable group,

optionally a second monomer, the second monomer comprising at least one radiation curable moiety but no acidic or silane group(s),

photoinitiator(s).

2. The use according to any of the preceding claims, the printing sol being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

being translucent in a wave length range from 420 to 600 nm for a path length of 10 mm;

showing a transmission of at least 5% at 420 nm determined for a path length of 10 mm; the sol having a viscosity of less than 500 mPa*s at 23°C;

pH value: from 1 to 6 if brought in contact with water.

3. The use according to any of the preceding claims, the polymerizable surface modification agent represented by formula A-B being characterized by at least one, more or all of the following features:

A comprising an acidic group or a silane group;

B comprising a vinyl group, in particular an acryl or methacryl group;

being present in the sol in an amount from 2 to 30 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol. The use according to any of the preceding claims, the nano-sized zirconia particles being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

being essentially spherical, cuboidal or a mixture thereof;

being non-associated;

comprising Zr02 in an amount of 70 to 100 mol-%;

comprising HfC in an amount of 0 to 4.5 mol-%;

comprising a stabilizer selected from Y2O3, Ce02, MgO, CaO, La203 or a combination thereof in an amount of 0 to 30 mol-%;

comprising AI2O3 in an amount of 0 to 1 mol-%.

The use according to any of the preceding claims, the photoinitiator being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

showing radiation absorbance in the range from 200 to 500 nm;

being combustible without residues at a temperature below 800°C;

comprising a moiety selected from benzophenone, xanthone, quinone, benzoin ether, acetophenon, benzoyl oxime or acyl phosphine;

being present in the sol in an amount from 0.01 to 3 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol.

The use according to any of the preceding claims, the solvent being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

having a boiling point above 70°C or above 150°C;

having a molecular weight from 25 to 300 g/mol;

having a viscosity from 0.1 to 50 mPa*s at 23°C;

The use according to any of the preceding claims, the sol comprising in addition inhibitor(s), preferably in an amount from 0.001 to 0.5 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol.

The use according to any of the preceding claims, the printing sol being characterized as follows:

solvent(s) in an amount from 25 to 70 wt.-%, nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles in an amount from amount from 2 to 25 vol.-

%,

polymerizable material in an amount from 2 to 30 wt.-%, comprising a first monomer being a polymerizable surface modification agent,

photo initiator in an amount from 0.001 to 3 wt.-%,

inhibitor in an amount from 0 to 0.5 wt.-%,

wt.-% and vol.-% with respect to the weight or volume of the printing sol.

9. A process for producing a ceramic article, the process comprising the steps of:

providing a printing sol as described in any of the preceding claims,

processing the printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process to obtain a 3 -dim article being in a gel state, the 3 -dim article having a Volume A,

transferring the 3 -dim article being in a gel state to a 3 -dim article being in a dry state, preferably an aerogel or xerogel,

applying a heat treatment step to obtain a sintered 3-dim ceramic article, the ceramic article having a Volume F,

wherein Volume A > Volume F. 10. The process according to the preceding claim, Volume A of the 3-dim article in a gel state being more than 50% larger than Volume F of the ceramic article in its sintered state.

11. The process according to any of claims 9 to 10, the process being described as follows: providing a printing sol as described in any of claims 1 to 8,

processing the printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process to obtain a 3-dim article being in a gel state, the 3-dim article having a Volume A,

additive manufacturing the desired geometries by sequential light curing of layers to obtain a 3-dim article being in a gel state,

optionally cleaning the surface of the 3-dim article being in a gel state, optionally post-curing the 3 -dim article being in a gel state to a temperature in the range of 35 to 80 °C or by additional light hardening, that 3 -dim article having a Volume B,

optionally soaking the 3 -dim article being in a gel state with another solvent;

transferring the 3 -dim article being in a gel state to a 3 -dim article being in a dry state, preferably by applying a supercritical drying step to the 3 -dim article being in a gel state to form an aerogel, that 3 -dim article in the form of an aerogel having a Volume C,

optionally heating the 3 -dim article being in an aerogel state to a temperature in the range of 400 to 800 °C, in particular for the purpose of removing organic components and to further increasing the stability, to obtain a green body, that 3 -dim article having a Volume D,

optionally heating the 3 -dim article of the previous step to a temperature in the range of 800 to 1100 °C, in particular for the purpose of creating a pre-sintered body or white body having a porous structure, that 3-dim article having a Volume E,

optionally coloring at least parts of the surface of the 3-dim article of the previous step, in particular for the purpose of adjusting the color and individualizing the desired 3-dim article,

applying a heat treatment step to obtain a sintered 3-dim ceramic article, the ceramic article having a Volume F,

wherein Volume A = or > Volume B if applicable > Volume C if applicable > Volume D if applicable > Volume E if applicable > Volume F.

12. The process according to any of claims 9 to 11, the processing of the printing sol being done by applying at least one or more of the following parameters:

Slice thickness of printing sol exposed to radiation: 0.001 to 0.500 mm;

Energy dose per layer in the range of 5 mJ/cm2 to 100 mJ/cm2.

13. The process according to any of claims 9 to 12, the process not comprising either or all of the following steps:

heating the construction material during the processing step to a temperature above 70 °C; applying pressure during the sintering step.

14. A ceramic article obtainable or obtained according to a process as described in any of claims 9 to 12, the ceramic article being characterized by either or all of the following features:

density: more than 98.5% with respect to theoretical density;

translucency: more than 30% determined on a polished sample having a thickness of 1 mm;

flexural strength: at least 450 MPa according to ISO 6872;

phase content tetragonal phase: from 0 to 100 wt.-%;

phase content cubic phase: from 0 to 100 wt.-%;

size in either x, y or z direction: at least 0.25 mm.

15. The ceramic article according to the preceding claim, the ceramic article having the shape of a dental restoration or orthodontic bracket.

Description:
SOL CONTAINING NANO ZIRCONIA PARTICLES FOR USE IN ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING PROCESSES FOR THE PRODUCTION OF 3 -DIMENSIONAL

ARTICLES

Field of the Invention

The invention relates to a process of using a sol containing nano-sized zirconia particles as construction material in an additive manufacturing process for producing 3- dimensional articles. The invention also relates to articles obtainable by such an additive manufacturing process using a sol containing zirconia nano particles as construction material. The invention is particularly useful in the dental and orthodontic area for producing dental restorations and orthodontic brackets.

Background Art

So far additive manufacturing technologies are mainly used for processing polymers and metals. Applying these technologies to the production of ceramic parts is not easy due to the challenge of producing ceramic parts with full or close to full density. It is a challenge to obtain an article having a high green density, which after sintering may result in an article having a high final density and sufficient physical properties.

Powder-based additive manufacturing technologies, where the low packing density of the powder bed results in a highly porous 3 -dimensional (3 -dim) object, typically do not result in a high-density ceramic without the addition of large amounts of pressure during heat treatment, making the realization of dense complex three-dimensional shapes challenging. Typically this method leads to densities of less than 95% of the theoretical density of the ceramic material. The processing of slurries based on ceramic-filled photopolymers with stereolithography (SLA) has shown promise due to its ability to serve as a green body in the production of relatively dense ceramic articles with three dimensional architecture.

US 7,927,538 B2 (Moszner et al.) describes light-curing slips for the stereolithographic preparation of dental ceramics. The slip comprises a polyreactive binder, photoinitiator, surface-modified ceramic particles and a chain transfer agent. The viscosity of the slip lies in the range of 200 mPa*s to 2,000 Pa*s (23 °C). US 6,283,997 Bl (Garg et al.) relates to a process for producing a ceramic composite bone implant having a porous network from a photocurable polymer with a high volume percent of ceramic composition. For producing the photocurable ceramic composition, alumina or hydroxyapatite having a particle size in the range of 0.05 to 10 μηι is suggested.

US 8,003,040 B2 (El-Siblani) relates to a process for producing a 3-dim object by solidifying layers with electromagnetic radiation of synergistic stimulation in a pattern.

US 2007/0072762 (Neil et al.) describes a method of making ceramic discharge vessels for a lamp application using stereolithography. The ceramic-resin mixture used for this method contains a photocurable acrylate resin and ceramic powders like aluminum oxide, aluminum oxvnitride, yttrium aluminum garnet and aluminum nitride powders having a mean grain size in the range of d50 = 0.6 μηι. The viscosity of the mixture is in a range of 200 to 25,000 mPa*s.

US 6,955,776 B 1 (Fenestra) relates to a method for making a dental element by using a powder-based 3D printing technique. The powder can be used in dry form or in dispersed form (slurry). The powder can be ceramic material or a metal. The ceramic material is preferably selected from from Si0 2 , AI2O3, K2O, Na?0, CaO, Ba?.0, C1O2, T1O2, BaO, CeQ 2 , La?03, MgO, ZnO and Li?0. The powder used in the example has median particle size of d50: 0.5 to 0.7 μιη.

US 2003/0222366 Al (Stangei et al.) describes production of a dental restoration in which a digitized optical impression of a den al restoration site is captured using an intraoral camera. The captured optical impression is converted into a data file suitable for computer-assisted production using stereolithography. The ceramic material should have a viscosity in the range of 200 to 3.5 million centipoise (mPa*s). The mean particle size of the ceramic material should be from 0.05 to 5 μηι. US 2010/0249305 (Laubersheimer et al.) describes a slip for the preparation of dental ceramics by a hot-melt inkjet printing process. The slip contains ceramic particles, a radically polyrnerizable monomer, and a wax. Ceramic particles based on AI2O3 or ZrQ 2 should have a particle size of 50 to 500 nm.

Similarly, US8, 133,831 B2 (Schlechtriemen et al.) describes a process for the generative preparation of shaped ceramic bodies by 3-dimensional Inkjet printing using different kinds of ceramic slips. The viscosity of the slips is said to be above 200 mPa*s at room temperature,

US 2014/0183799 Al (Fischer et al .) deals with light-curing ceramic slips for the stereolithographic preparation of high-strength ceramics using a slip based on a radically polymerizable binder, polymerization initiator, filler and a certain acidic monomer comprising a radically polymerizable group. For Y-TZP zirconium dioxide, a particle size in the range of 50 to 3500 nrn is said to be preferred. The rheological properties of the slip are said to range from 0.02 to 20,000 Pa*s (23°C).

US 8,329,296 B2 (Apel et al.) relates to primary particles of oxide-ceramic material having a primary particle size in the range of 10 to 1 ,000 nm which are coated with, a chromophoric component. The particles may be provided as a suspension comprising a polyreactive binder, an organic solvent and additives. The suspension is said to have a viscosity from 200 to 2,000 Pa*s (23 °C).

WO 01/13815 Al (Feenstra) describes a method for making a dental element by a 3 -dim printing technique. As curable material preferably a nanomeric material consisting of nanomeric inorganic solid particles having polymerizable organic groups at their surface is used. After the printing process, the dental element is typically subject to a thermal post- treatment between 60 and 150°C to complete curing. Instead thereof or supplemental thereof, a thermal densification is accomplished wherein the dental element is heated to a temperature of at least 25()°C. However, the compositions described in the references above have deficiencies.

Often, using a slurry or slip with ceramic particles greater than 50 nm in diameter is suggested. Not only are the slurry properties typically not suitable to produce highly accurate ceramic articles, but the larger particle sizes, even when closely packed, still limit the percentage of theoretical density possible, limiting the final material properties including mechanical as well as optical performance.

Description of the Invention

Thus, there is a need for an improved additive manufacturing process.

There is also a need for high-strength, translucent, printed zirconia articles. It is an object of the present invention to improve existing additive manufacturing processes.

In particular, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved material or composition which can be used in an additive manufacturing process. That manufacturing material or composition should enable the practitioner to produce ceramic articles with a density close to theoretical density, high strength, high accuracy and/or good translucency.

It has been observed that intermediate bodies obtained by conducting additive manufacturing processes are often not stable enough for further processing. E. g., when the work tray of a stereolithographic manufacturing unit is moved up or down for applying a further layer on top of the existing layer, sometimes the intermediate body shows cracks or is not sufficiently stable in its current shape.

Thus, a material or composition would be desirable, the processing of which in an additive manufacturing process may lead to an increase in green body stability of the intermediate body, in particular, if the intermediate body is provided in an enlarged scale compared to the final product.

This object can be achieved by using a sol to create a green body gel as described in the present text.

In one embodiment the present invention relates to the use of a printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process for producing a 3 -dim article, the printing sol comprising:

• solvent(s),

• nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles in an amount from 2 to 25 vol.-% with respect to the volume of the printing sol or 20 to 70 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol, the average primary particle size of the nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles being in a range from 2 to 50 nm,

• a first monomer being a polymerizable surface modification agent(s) represented by formula A-B, with A being capable of attaching to the surface of the nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles and B being a radiation curable group,

· photoinitiator(s). Another embodiment of the invention relates to a process of producing a 3 -dim ceramic article, the process comprising the steps of:

• providing a printing sol as described in the present text,

· processing the printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process to obtain a 3 -dim article being in a gel state, the 3 -dim article having a Volume A,

• transferring the 3 -dim article being in a gel state to a 3 -dim article being in a dry state, preferably by applying a supercritical drying step,

· applying a heat treatment step to obtain a sintered 3 -dim ceramic article, the ceramic article having a Volume F,

wherein Volume A > Volume F.

The invention is also directed to a ceramic article obtainable according to a process as described in the present text, the ceramic article optionally showing a laminated structure if cut in longitudinal direction and being characterized by at least one, more or all of the following features:

• density: more than 98.5% with respect to theoretical density;

• translucency: more than 30% determined on a polished sample having a thickness of 1 mm;

• flexural strength: at least 450 MPa according to ISO 6872;

• phase content tetragonal phase: from 0 to 100 wt.-%;

• phase content cubic phase: from 0 to 100 wt.-%;

• size in either x, y or z direction: at least 0.25 mm.

Definitions

"Ceramic" or "ceramic article" means a non-metallic material that is produced by application of heat. Ceramics are usually hard, and brittle and, in contrast to glasses or glass ceramics, display an essentially purely crystalline structure. Ceramics are usually classified as inorganic materials.

"Crystalline" means a solid composed of atoms arranged in a pattern periodic in three dimensions (i.e., has long-range crystal structure as determined by X-ray diffraction). A "crystallite" means a crystalline domain of a solid having a defined crystal structure. A crystallite can only have one crystal phase.

"Additive manufacturing" means processes used to make 3 -dimensional articles. An example of an additive manufacturing technique is stereolithography (SLA) in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control. The articles can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from a 3 -dimensional model or other electronic data source.

The term "dental ceramic article" means any article which is to be used in the dental or orthodontic field, especially for producing a dental restoration, orthodontic devices, a tooth model and parts thereof.

Examples of dental articles include crowns, bridges, inlays, onlays, veneers, facings, copings, crown and bridged framework, implants, abutments, dental milling blocks, monolithic dental restorations and parts thereof.

Examples of orthodontic articles include brackets, buccal tubes, cleats and buttons and parts thereof.

A dental or orthodontic article should not contain components which are detrimental to the patient ' s health and thus free of hazardous and toxic components being able to migrate out of the dental or orthodontic article. The surface of a tooth is considered not to be a dental or orthodontic article. "Zirconia article" shall mean a 3 -dimensional (3 -dim) article wherein at least one of the x, y, z dimensions is at least 1 mm, at least 0.5 mm, at least 0.25 mm, the article being comprised of at least about 80 or at least about 85 or at least about 90 or at least about 95 wt.-% zirconia.

"Monolithic dental restoration" shall mean a dental ceramic article onto the surface of which no facing or veneer has been attached. That is, the monolithic dental restoration is essentially comprised out of only one material composition. However, if desired a thin glazing layer can be applied.

"Glass" means an inorganic non-metallic amorphous material which is thermodynamically an under-cooled and frozen melt. Glass refers to a hard, brittle, transparent solid. Typical examples include soda-lime glass and borosilicate glass. A glass is an inorganic product of fusion which has been cooled to a rigid condition without crystallizing. Most glasses contain silica as their main component and a certain amount of glass former. The material or article described in the present text does not contain a glass.

"Glass-ceramic" means an inorganic non-metallic material where one or more crystalline phases are surrounded by a glassy phase so that the material comprises a glass material and a ceramic material in a combination or mixture. Thus, a glass ceramic is a material sharing many properties with both glass and more traditional crystalline ceramics. It is formed as a glass, and then made to crystallize partly by heat treatment. Glass ceramics may refer to a mixture of lithium -, silicon- and aluminium oxides. The material or article described in the present text does not contain a glass-ceramic.

"Sol" refers to a continuous liquid phase containing discrete particles having sizes in a range from 1 nm to 100 nm or from 1 to 50 nm, a so-called "colloidal solution". The sols described in the present text are translucent and do show a so-called "Tyndall effect" or "Tyndall scattering". The size of the particles is below the wavelength of the visible light (400 to 750 nm).

A transparent material lets light pass through according to Snell's law (classical law of refraction). So, a picture can be seen in its details through a platelet of a transparent material.

A translucent material lets light partially permeate through although it is not fully transparent, i.e. showing a significant volume scattering of the transmitted light. The reciprocal property of translucency is opacity (O). O = 1/T = I/I0 (T = Transmission, I = Intensity of permeated light, I = Intensity of light before permeation). So, opacity values smaller than about 0.9 for a 1 mm thick platelet with a diameter of 15 mm are regarded as translucent (e.g. for a measurement with a Color i7 device, X-Rite corporation USA, measurement mode: remission contrast ratio). Opacity can be measured by various means: in transmission, in remission, in remission using the contrast ratio method.

By "machining" is meant milling, grinding, cutting, carving, or shaping a material by a machine. Milling is usually faster and more cost effective than grinding. A "machinable article" is an article having a 3-dim shape and having sufficient strength to be machined.

A "powder" means a dry, bulk material composed of a large number of fine particles that may flow freely when shaken or tilted. A "particle" means a substance being a solid having a shape which can be geometrically determined. The shape can be regular or irregular. Particles can typically be analysed with respect to e.g. particle size and particle size distribution. A particle can comprise one or more crystallites. Thus, a particle can comprise one or more crystal phases.

The term "associated" refers to a grouping of two or more primary particles that are aggregated and/or agglomerated. Similarly, the term "non-associated" refers to two or more primary particles that are free or substantially free from aggregation and/or agglomeration.

The term "aggregation" refers to a strong association of two or more primary particles. For example, the primary particles may be chemically bound to one another. The breakdown of aggregates into smaller particles (e.g., primary particles) is generally difficult to achieve.

The term "agglomeration" refers to a weak association of two or more primary particles. For example, particles may be held together by charge or polarity. The breakdown of agglomerates into smaller particles (e.g., primary particles) is less difficult than the breakdown of aggregates into smaller particles.

The term "primary particle size" refers to the size of a non-associated single crystal zirconia particle, which is considered to be a primary particle. X-ray diffraction (XRD) is typically used to measure the primary particle size.

"Soluble" means that a component (solid) can be completely dissolved within a solvent. That is, the substance is able to form individual molecules (like glucose) or ions (like sodium chloride) or non-settling particles (like a sol) when dispersed in water at 23°C. The solution process, however, might take some time, e.g. stirring the composition over a couple of hours (e.g. 10 or 20 h) might be required.

"Density" means the ratio of mass to volume of an object. The unit of density is typically g/cm 3 . The density of an object can be calculated e.g. by determining its volume (e.g. by calculation or applying the Archimedes principle or method) and measuring its mass. The volume of a sample can be determined based on the overall outer dimensions of the sample. The density of the sample can be calculated from the measured sample volume and the sample mass. The total volume of a material sample can be calculated from the mass of the sample and the density of the used material. The total volume of cells in the sample is assumed to be the remainder of the sample volume (100% minus the total volume of material).

A "porous material" refers to a material comprising a partial volume that is formed by voids, pores, or cells in the technical field of ceramics. Accordingly an "open-celled" structure of a material sometimes is referred to as "open-porous" structure, and a "closed- celled" material structure sometimes is referred to as a "closed-porous" structure. It may also be found that instead of the term "cell" sometimes "pore" is used in this technical field. The material structure categories "open-celled" and "closed-celled" can be determined for different porosities measured on different material samples (e.g. using a mercury "Poremaster 60-GT" from Quantachrome Inc., USA) according to DIN 66133. A material having an open-celled or open-porous structure can be passed through by e.g. gases.

The "average connected pore diameter" means the average size of the open-celled pores of a material. The average connected pore diameter can be calculated as described in the Examples section.

The term "calcining" or "debindering" refers to a process of heating solid material to drive off at least 90 percent by weight of volatile chemically bond components (e.g., organic components) (vs., for example, drying, in which physically bonded water is driven off by heating). Calcining is done at a temperature below a temperature needed to conduct a pre-sintering step.

The terms "sintering" or "firing" are used interchangeably. A pre-sintered ceramic article shrinks during a sintering step, that is, if an adequate temperature is applied. The sintering temperature to be applied depends on the ceramic material chosen. For ZrCh based ceramics a typical sintering temperature range is about 1100 °C to about 1550 °C. Sintering typically includes the densification of a porous material to a less porous material (or a material having less cells) having a higher density, in some cases sintering may also include changes of the material phase composition (for example, a partial conversion of an amorphous phase toward a crystalline phase).

"Diafiltration" is a technique that uses ultrafiltration membranes to completely remove, replace, or lower the concentration of salts or solvents from solutions containing organic molecules. The process selectively utilizes permeable (porous) membrane filters to separate the components of solutions and suspensions based on their molecular size. "Green body gel" means a three-dim gel resulting from the curing reaction of polymerizable components contained in a sol, including organic binder and solvent.

"Aerogel" means a three-dimensional low-density (e.g., less than 30 % of theoretical density) solid. An aerogel is a porous material derived from a green body gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The solvent removal is often done under supercritical conditions. During this process the network does not substantially shrink and a highly porous, low-density material can be obtained.

"Xerogel" refers to a three-dimensional solid derived from a green body gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been removed by evaporation under ambient conditions or at an elevated temperature. A "green body" means an un-sintered ceramic item, typically having an organic binder present. A "white body" means a pre-sintered ceramic item.

A "geometrically defined article" means an article the shape of which can be described with geometrical terms including 2-dimensional terms like circle, square, rectangle, and 3-dimensional terms like layer, cube, cuboid, sphere.

"Isotropic sintering behaviour" means that the sintering of a porous body during the sintering process occurs essentially invariant with respect to the directions x, y and z. "Essentially invariant" means that the difference in sintering behaviour with respect to the directions x, y and z is in a range of not more than about +/- 5% or +/- 2% or +/- 1%.

A material or composition is "essentially or substantially free of a certain component within the meaning of the invention, if the material or composition does not contain said component as an essential feature. Thus, said component is not wilfully added to the composition or material either as such or in combination with other components or ingredient of other components. A composition or material being essentially free of a certain component usually contains the component in an amount of less than about 1 wt.-% or less than about 0.1 wt.-% or less than about 0.01 wt.-% (or less than about 0.05 mol/1 solvent or less than about 0.005 mol/1 solvent or less than about 0.0005 mol/1 solvent) with respect to the whole composition or material. Ideally the composition or material does not contain the said component at all. However, sometimes the presence of a small amount of the said component is not avoidable e.g. due to impurities. As used herein, "a", "an", "the", "at least one" and "one or more" are used interchangeably. The terms "comprises" or "contains" and variations thereof do not have a limiting meaning where these terms appear in the description and claims. Also herein, the recitations of numerical ranges by endpoints include all numbers subsumed within that range (e.g., 1 to 5 includes 1, 1.5, 2, 2.75, 3, 3.80, 4, 5, etc.).

Adding an "(s)" to a term means that the term should include the singular and plural form. E.g. the term "additive(s)" means one additive and more additives (e.g. 2, 3, 4, etc.).

Unless otherwise indicated, all numbers expressing quantities of ingredients, measurement of physical properties such as described below and so forth used in the specification and claims are to be understood as being modified in all instances by the term "about". The term "comprise" shall include also the terms "consist essentially of and "consists of.

Brief Description of Figures

Fig. 1 shows samples of a green body gel obtained by using the sol described in the present text.

Fig. 2 shows another sample of a green body gel having the shape of a dental crown obtained by using the sol described in the present text.

Fig. 3 shows the samples of Fig. 1 after sintering. Fig. 4 shows the sample of Fig. 2 after sintering.

Fig. 5 shows a sintered translucent article having the shape of a disc.

Fig. 6 shows the laminated structure of a sintered article.

Fig. 7 shows another sample of green body gels having the shape of orthodontic brackets. Fig. 8 shows a pre-sintered article having the shape of an orthodontic bracket.

Fig. 9 shows a sintered article having the shape of an orthodontic bracket. Fig. 10, 11 and 12 show further samples of green body gels. Detailed Description of the Invention

It has been found that a sol as described in the present text is highly suitable as manufacturing material for producing ceramic articles by applying an additive manufacturing technique, in particular SLA techniques. The application of additive manufacturing processing over subtractive processing provides for a significant reduction in material usage and potentially a significant reduction in burnout and/or sintering time due to the smaller part size.

Once sintered, the ceramic articles show good physical properties like high bending strength or fracture resistance. Further, the ceramic articles can be sufficiently translucent and can thus be used in particular in the dental and orthodontic field.

The ceramic articles can be produced with high accuracy in particular with regards to details or smoothness of the surface.

During the additive manufacturing process there is no need to apply heat in order to make the manufacturing material flow sufficiently in order to process it.

There is also no need to add further additives like waxes to the manufacturing material needed for stabilizing the 3 -dim article obtained after conducting the additive manufacturing technique.

The invention facilitates an additive, mould-free approach to final part fabrication as compared to existing moulding and/or subtractive processes, e.g. machining a ceramic article out of a mill blank.

In contrast to slurries or slips described in the prior art for use in additive manufacturing techniques, the sol described in the present text is more translucent and typically has a comparably low viscosity. Compared to slurries or slips described in the prior art for use as construction material for SLA printing, the volume content of the particles contained in the sol described in the present text is lower.

Using a sol as described in the present text may also contribute to enhanced resolution printing. The invention described in the present text is i.e. based on the following findings: Highly-loaded ceramic-filled photopolymers typically used for ceramic additive manufacturing result in a reduction in stereolithographic layer adhesion (SLA) compared to unfilled photopolymers. Smaller particles provide more surface area for the two phases to interact, potentially resulting in a more robust green body.

Light scattering from larger particles often results in a non-uniform polymerization in the direction of the build layer, sometimes leading to problems with achieving adhesion between layers (resulting in an insufficient green body strength), as well as a decrease in resolution in the x-y direction as the light intended for the z-direction cure is scattered.

It was found that using smaller particles reduces light scattering and allows for a more controlled cure, having the result of a better shaped green body. Using particles with an average primary particle size greater than 100 nm was not found to be as useful as the particles scatter greater amounts of light which increases the occurrence of cure being initiated outside of the intended shape to be formed. Smaller particles provide more uniform cure, especially in the z-direction, resulting in greater uniformity of density.

Nanoscale particles hold the potential for theoretically nanoscale layer thicknesses that wouldn't be possible with larger particles. For example a 25 micron layer thickness setting with a slurry that has 50 micron particles doesn't allow for realization of shaping offered with a small layer thickness. This includes not only the resolution of the material that makes up the part, but also the voids and internal structures that can be realized within the 3-dim printed part (which is a significant advantage of 3-dim printing over alternative shaping techniques). This also includes the ability to realize ultrathin walls.

Similarly, sols with uniformly dispersed nanoscale particles theoretically allow for smoother surface finishes to be achieved as compared to those with larger particles.

Typically, a filled photopolymer system is significantly more viscous than an unfilled photopolymer system. This represents longer build times as the construction material needs more time to flow into position, requirements of additional mechanical actuation to move the construction material in place, and difficulty in removing the construction material from the surface of the part when shaping of the article is finished. Lower viscosity can provide improved performance and efficiency

Low viscosity sols allow for simple removal of excess materials from internal channels or deep slots such as in the case of a narrow wire slot on an orthodontic bracket. Higher viscosity sols combined with a green body of lower mechanical strength make the likelihood of fully realizing the small resolution of channels and dips rather low.

Smaller nanoparticles provide an opportunity for more uniform and higher density of final sintered part, resulting in greater mechanical and optical performance of the part, features which are important for several applications.

The invention is now described in further details:

The invention is directed to the use of a sol for producing a 3-dim article or to a process for producing a 3-dim article.

The sol is useful as construction material in an additive manufacturing process, in particular in an additive manufacturing process such as stereolithographic printing. Such a sol is sometimes also referred to as printing sol.

Sols which were found to be generally suitable are described e.g. in WO 2013/055432 (3M) relating to aerogels, calcined articles and crystalline articles comprising zirconia and a methods of making the same. US 7,429,422 (Davidson et al.) also describes methods of making zirconia-based sols, which can be used. Further sols which can be used are described in US application No. 62/127,569 (3M) filed March 3, 2015. The above references are herewith incorporated by reference.

The preparation of the printing sol used in the additive manufacturing process typically starts with the preparation of a starting sol.

A precursor solution is prepared by combining a zirconium salt (e.g. acetate) solution and a solvent (e.g. water). A phase stabilizing agent (e.g. yttrium acetate) is added and dissolved in the precursor solution. The resulting composition is pumped e.g. through a hydrothermal reactor. When subjected to hydrothermal treatment, the various dissolved salts undergo hydrolysis and condensation reactions to form zirconia-based particles. These reactions are often accompanied with the release of an acidic by-product (e.g. acetic acid).

Suitable hydrothermal reactors are described e.g. in US 5,453,262 (Dawson et al.) and US 5,652,192 (Matson et al.).

The content of tetragonal and/or cubic phase of the zirconia crystallites can be adjusted by varying the amount of phase stabilizing components added during the production method.

Phase stabilizing components which can be used include Ce, Mg, Ca, Y, rare earth elements and combinations thereof.

Although any of a variety of known methods can be used to provide the zirconia- based particles, preferably they are prepared using hydrothermal technology.

In one exemplary embodiment, the zirconia-based sols are prepared by hydrothermal treatment of aqueous metal salt (e.g., a zirconium salt, an yttrium salt, and an optional lanthanide element salt or aluminium salt) solutions, suspensions or a combination of them.

The aqueous metal salts, which are selected to be soluble in water, are typically dissolved in the aqueous medium. The aqueous medium can be water or a mixture of water with other water soluble or water miscible materials. In addition, the aqueous metal salts and other water soluble or water miscible materials which may be present are typically selected to be removable during subsequent processing steps and to be non-corrosive.

At least a majority of the dissolved salts in the feedstock are usually carboxylate salts rather than halide salts, oxyhalide salts, nitrate salts, or oxynitrate salts. Although not wanting to be bound by theory, it is believed that halide and nitrate anions in the feedstock tend to result in the formation of zirconia-based particles that are predominately of a monoclinic phase rather than the more desirable tetragonal or cubic phases. Further, carboxylates and/or acids thereof tend to be more compatible with an organic matrix material compared to halides and nitrates. Although any carboxylate anion can be used, the carboxylate anion often has no greater than 4 carbon atoms (e.g., formate, acetate, propionate, butyrate, or a combination thereof). The dissolved salts are often acetate salts. The feedstock can further include, for example, the corresponding carboxylic acid of the carboxylate anion. For example, feedstocks prepared from acetate salts often contain acetic acid.

One exemplary zirconium salt is zirconium acetate salt, represented by a formula such as ZrO((4-n)/2) n+ (CH3COO " )n, where n is in the range from 1 to 2. The zirconium ion may be present in a variety of structures depending, for example, on the pH of the feedstock. Suitable aqueous solutions of zirconium acetate are commercially available, for example, from Magnesium Elektron, Inc., Flemington, NJ, that contain, for example, up to 17 wt.-% zirconium, up to 18 wt.-% zirconium, up to 20 wt.-% zirconium, up to 22 wt.-%, up to 24 wt.-%, up to 26 wt.-%, and up to 28 wt.-% zirconium, based on the total weight of the solution.

Similarly, exemplary yttrium salts, and aluminium salts often have a carboxylate anion, and are commercially available. Because these salts are typically used at much lower concentration levels than the zirconium salt, however, salts other than carboxylate salts (e.g., acetate salts) may also be useful (e.g., nitrate salts). The total amount of the various salts dissolved in the feedstock can be readily determined based on the total percent solids selected for the feedstock. The relative amounts of the various salts can be calculated to provide the selected composition for the zirconia- based particles.

Typically, the pH of the feedstock is acidic. For example, the pH is usually less than 6, less than 5, or even less than 4 (in some embodiments, in a range from 3 to 4).

The liquid phase of the feedstock is typically predominantly water (i.e., the liquid phase is an aqueous based medium). Preferably, the water is deionized to minimize the introduction of alkali metal ions, alkaline earth ions, or both into the feedstock. Optionally, water-miscible organic co-solvents are included in the liquid phase in amounts, for example, up 20 wt.-%, based on the weight of the liquid phase. Suitable co-solvents include 1- methoxy-2-propanol, ethanol, iso-propanol, ethylene glycol, Ν,Ν-dimethylacetamide, and N-methyl pyrrolidone.

When subjected to hydrothermal treatment, the various dissolved salts in the feedstock undergo hydrolysis and condensation reactions to form the zirconia-based particles. These reactions are often accompanied with the release of an acidic by-product. That is, the by-product is often one or more carboxylic acids corresponding to the zirconium carboxylate salt plus any other carboxylate salt in the feedstock. For example, if the salts are acetate salts, acetic acid is formed as a by-product of the hydrothermal reaction.

Any suitable hydrothermal reactor can be used for the preparation of the zirconia- based particles. The reactor can be a batch or continuous reactor. The heating times are typically shorter and the temperatures are typically higher in a continuous hydrothermal reactor compared to a batch hydrothermal reactor. The time of the hydrothermal treatments can be varied depending, for example, on the type of reactor, the temperature of the reactor, and the concentration of the feedstock. The pressure in the reactor can be autogeneous (i.e., the vapour pressure of water at the temperature of the reactor), can be hydraulic (i.e., the pressure caused by the pumping of a fluid against a restriction), or can result from the addition of an inert gas such as nitrogen or argon. Suitable batch hydrothermal reactors are available, for example, from Parr Instruments Co., Moline, IL. Some suitable continuous hydrothermal reactors are described, for example, in US 5,453,262 (Dawson et al.) and US 5,652,192 (Matson et al.).

In some embodiments, the feedstock is passed through a continuous hydrothermal reactor. As used herein, the term "continuous" with reference to the hydrothermal reactor system means that the feedstock is continuously introduced and an effluent is continuously removed from the heated zone. The introduction of feedstock and the removal of the effluent typically occur at different locations of the reactor. The continuous introduction and removal can be constant or pulsed.

The dimensions of the tubular reactor can be varied and, in conjunction with the flow rate of the feedstock, can be selected to provide suitable residence times for the reactants within the tubular reactor. Any suitable length tubular reactor can be used provided that the residence time and temperature are sufficient to convert the zirconium in the feedstock to zirconia-based particles. The tubular reactor often has a length of at least 0.5 meter (in some embodiments, at least 1 m, 2 m, 5 m, 10 m, 15 m, 20 m, 30 m, 40 m, or even at least 50 m). The length of the tubular reactor in some embodiments is less than 500 m (in some embodiments, less than 400 m, 300 m, 200 m, 100 m, 80 m, 60 m, 40 m, or even less than 20 m). Tubular reactors with a relatively small inner diameter are sometimes preferred. For example, tubular reactors having an inner diameter no greater than about 3 cm are often used because of the fast rate of heating of the feedstock that can be achieved with these reactors. Also, the temperature gradient across the tubular reactor is less for reactors with a smaller inner diameter compared to those with a larger inner diameter. The larger the inner diameter of the tubular reactor, the more this reactor resembles a batch reactor. However, if the inner diameter of the tubular reactor is too small, there is an increased likelihood of the reactor becoming plugged or partially plugged during operation resulting from deposition of material on the walls of the reactor. The inner diameter of the tubular reactor is often at least 0.1 cm (in some embodiments, at least 0.15 cm, 0.2 cm, 0.3 cm, 0.4 cm, 0.5 cm, or even at least 0.6 cm). In some embodiments, the diameter of the tubular reactor is no greater than 3 cm (in some embodiments, no greater than 2.5 cm, 2 cm, 1.5 cm, or even greater than 1 cm; in some embodiments, in a range from 0.1 to 2.5 cm, 0.2 cm to 2.5 cm, 0.3 cm to 2 cm, 0.3 cm to 1.5 cm, or even 0.3 cm to 1 cm). In a continuous hydrothermal reactor, the temperature and the residence time are typically selected in conjunction with the tubular reactor dimensions to convert at least 90 mole percent of the zirconium in the feedstock to zirconia-based particles using a single hydrothermal treatment. That is, at least 90 mole percent of the dissolved zirconium in the feedstock is converted to zirconia-based particles within a single pass through the continuous hydrothermal reactor system.

Alternatively, for example, a multiple step hydrothermal process can be used. For example, the feedstock can be subjected to a first hydrothermal treatment to form a zirconium-containing intermediate and a by-product such as a carboxylic acid. A second feedstock can be formed by removing at least a portion of the by-product of the first hydrothermal treatment from the zirconium-containing intermediate. The second feedstock can then be subjected to a second hydrothermal treatment to form a sol containing the zirconia-based particles. Further details on this process are described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 7,241,437 (Davidson et al.).

If a two-step hydrothermal process is used, the percent conversion of the zirconium- containing intermediate is typically in a range from 40 to 75 mol-%. The conditions used in the first hydrothermal treatment can be adjusted to provide conversion within this range. Any suitable method can be used to remove at least part of the by-product of the first hydrothermal treatment. For example, carboxylic acids such as acetic acid can be removed by a variety of methods such as vaporization, dialysis, ion exchange, precipitation, and filtration. When referring to a continuous hydrothermal reactor, the term "residence time" means the average length of time that the feedstock is within the heated portion of the continuous hydrothermal reactor system.

Any suitable flow rate of the feedstock through the tubular reactor can be used as long as the residence time is sufficiently long to convert the dissolved zirconium to zirconia- based particles. That is, the flow rate is often selected based on the residence time needed to convert the zirconium in the feedstock to zirconia-based particles. Higher flow rates are desirable for increasing throughput and for minimizing the deposition of materials on the walls of the tubular reactor. A higher flow rate can often be used when the length of the reactor is increased or when both the length and diameter of the reactor are increased. The flow through the tubular reactor can be either laminar or turbulent.

In some exemplary continuous hydrothermal reactors, the reactor temperature is in the range from 170°C to 275°C, 170°C to 250°C, 170°C to 225°C, 180°C to 225°C, 190°C to 225°C, 200°C to 225°C, or even 200°C to 220°C. If the temperature is greater than about 275°C, the pressure may be unacceptably high for some hydrothermal reactors systems. However, if the temperature is less than about 170°C, the conversion of the zirconium in the feedstock to zirconia-based particles may be less than 90 wt.-% using typical residence times.

The effluent of the hydrothermal treatment (i.e., the product of the hydrothermal treatment) is a zirconia-based sol and can be referred to as the "sol effluent". The sol effluent is a dispersion or suspension of the zirconia-based particles in the aqueous-based medium. The sol effluent contains at least 3 wt.-% zirconia-based particles dispersed, suspended, or a combination thereof based on the weight of the sol. In some embodiments, the sol effluent contains at least 5 wt.-%, at least 6 wt.-%, at least 8 wt.-%, or at least 10 wt.-% zirconia- based particles based on the weight of the sol. The wt.-% zirconia-based particles can be up to 16 wt.-% or higher, up to 15 wt.-%, up to 12 wt.-%, or up to 10 wt.-%. The zirconia-based particles within the sol effluent are crystalline and have an average primary particle size no greater than 50 nm, no greater than 45 nm, no greater than 40 nm, no greater than 30 nm, no greater than 20 nm, no greater than 15 nm, or no greater than 10 nm. The zirconia-based particles typically have an average primary particle size that is at least 1 nm, at least 2 nm, at least 3 nm, at least 4 nm, or at least 5 nm.

The sol effluent usually contains non-associated zirconia-based particles. The sol effluent is typically clear or slightly cloudy. In contrast, zirconia-based sols that contain agglomerated or aggregated particles usually tend to have a milky or cloudy appearance. The sol effluent often has a high optical transmission due to the small size and non- associated form of the primary zirconia particles in the sol. High optical transmission of the sol effluent can be desirable in the preparation of transparent or translucent sintered articles. As used herein, "optical transmission" refers to the amount of light that passes through a sample (e.g., a sol effluent or printing sol) divided by the total amount of light incident upon the sample. The percent optical transmission may be calculated using the equation

100 ( I / Io )

where I is the light intensity passing though the sample and Io is the light intensity incident on the sample.

The optical transmission through the sol effluent is often related to the optical transmission through the printing sol (reaction mixture used to form the gel composition). Good transmission helps ensure that adequate curing occurs during the formation of the gel composition.

The optical transmission may be determined using an ultraviolet/visible spectrophotometer set, for example, at a wavelength of 420 nm or 600 nm with a 1 cm path length. The optical transmission is a function of the amount of zirconia in a sol. For sol effluents containing about 1 wt.-% zirconia, the optical transmission is typically at least 70 percent, at least 80 percent, at least 85 percent, or at least 90 percent at either 420 nm or 600 nm. For sol effluents containing about 10 wt.-% zirconia, the optical transmission is typically at least 20 percent, at least 25 percent, at least 30 percent, at least 40 percent, at least 50 percent, or at least 70 percent at either 420 nm or 600 nm. The zirconia-based particles in the sol effluent are crystalline and can be cubic, tetragonal, monoclinic, or a combination thereof. Because the cubic and tetragonal phases are difficult to differentiate using x-ray diffraction techniques, these two phases are typically combined for quantitative purposes and are referred to as the "cubic/tetragonal" phases. The percent cubic/tetragonal phase can be determined, for example, by measuring the peak area of the x-ray diffraction peaks for each phase and using the following equation:

% C/T = 100 (C/T) ÷ (C/T + M)

In this equation, "C/T" refers to the area of the diffraction peak for the cubic/tetragonal phase, "M" refers to the area of the diffraction peak for the monoclinic phase, and "% C/T" refers to the wt.-% cubic/tetragonal crystalline phase. The details of the x-ray diffraction measurements are described further in the Example section below.

Typically, at least 50 wt.-% of the zirconia-based particles in the sol effluent have a cubic structure, tetragonal structure, or a combination thereof. A greater content of the cubic/tetragonal phase is usually desired. The amount of cubic/tetragonal phase is often at least 60 wt.-%, at least 70 wt.-%, at least 75 wt.-%, at least 80 wt.-%, at least 85 wt.-%, at least 90 wt.-%, or at least 95 wt.-% based on a total weight of all crystalline phases present in the zirconia-based particles.

For example, cubic/tetragonal crystals have been observed to be associated with the formation of low aspect ratio primary particles having a cube-like shape when viewed under an electron microscope. This particle shape tends to be relatively easily dispersed into a liquid matrix. Typically, the zirconia particles have an average primary particle size up to 50 nm although larger sizes may also be useful. For example, the average primary particle size can be up to 40 nm, up to 35 nm, up to 30 nm, up to 25 nm, up to 20 nm, up to 15 nm, or even up to 10 nm. The average primary particle size is often at least 1 nm, at least 2 nm, at least 3 nm, or at least 5 nm. The average primary particle size, which refers to the non- associated particle size of the zirconia particles, can be determined by x-ray diffraction as described in the Example section. Zirconia sols described herein typically have primary particle size in a range of 2 to 50 nm. In some embodiments, the average primary particle size is in a range of 5 to 50 nm, 5 to 45 nm, 2 to 40 nm, 5 to 40 nm, 2 to 25 nm, 5 to 25 nm, 2 to 20 nm, 5 to 20 nm, 2 to 15 nm, 5 to 15 nm, or 2 to 10 nm. Different sols having different yttria contents can be mixed in order to adjust the ratio of cubic to tetragonal phase content of the zirconia crystallites contained therein, if desired.

In some embodiments, the particles in the sol effluent are non-associated and the average particle size is the same as the primary particle size. In some embodiments, the particles are aggregated or agglomerated to a size up to 100 nm. The extent of association between the primary particles can be determined from the volume-average particle size. The volume-average particle size can be measured using Photon Correlation Spectroscopy as described in more detail in the Examples section below. Briefly, the volume distribution (percentage of the total volume corresponding to a given size range) of the particles is measured. The volume of a particle is proportional to the third power of the diameter. The volume-average size is the size of a particle that corresponds to the mean of the volume distribution. If the zirconia-based particles are associated, the volume-average particle size provides a measure of the size of the aggregate and/or agglomerate of primary particles. If the particles of zirconia are non-associated, the volume-average particle size provides a measure of the size of the primary particles. The zirconia-based particles typically have a volume-average size of up to 100 nm. For example, the volume-average size can be up to 90 nm, up to 80 nm, up to 75 nm, up to 70 nm, up to 60 nm, up to 50 nm, up to 40 nm, up to 30 nm, up to 25 nm, up to 20 nm, or up to 15 nm, or even up to 10 nm. A quantitative measure of the degree of association between the primary particles in the sol effluent is the dispersion index. As used herein the "dispersion index" is defined as the volume-average particle size divided by the primary particle size. The primary particle size (e.g., the weighted average crystallite size) is determined using x-ray diffraction techniques and the volume-average particle size is determined using Photon Correlation Spectroscopy. As the association between primary particles decreases, the dispersion index approaches a value of 1 but can be somewhat higher or lower. The zirconia-based particles typically have a dispersion index in a range of from 1 to 7. For example, the dispersion index is often in a range 1 to 5, 1 to 4, 1 to 3, 1 to 2.5, or even 1 to 2.

Photon Correlation Spectroscopy also can be used to calculate the Z-average primary particle size. The Z-average size is calculated from the fluctuations in the intensity of scattered light using a cumulative analysis and is proportional to the sixth power of the particle diameter. The volume-average size will typically be a smaller value than the Z- average size. The zirconia-based particles tend to have a Z-average size that is up to 100 nm. For example, the Z-average size can be up to 90 nm, up to 80 nm, up to 70 nm, up to 60 nm, up to 50 nm, up to 40 nm, up to 35 nm, up to 30 nm, up to 20 nm, or even up to 15 nm.

Depending on how the zirconia-based particles are prepared, the particles may contain at least some organic material in addition to the inorganic oxides. For example, if the particles are prepared using a hydrothermal approach, there may be some organic material attached to the surface of the zirconia-based particles. Although not wanting to be bound by theory, it is believed that organic material originates from the carboxylate species (anion, acid, or both) included in the feedstock or formed as a by-product of the hydrolysis and condensation reactions (i.e., organic material is often absorbed on the surface of the zirconia-based particles). For example, in some embodiments, the zirconia-based particles contain up to 15 wt.-%, up to 12 wt.-%, up to 10 wt.-%, up to 8 wt.-%, or even up to 6 wt- % organic material based on a total weight of the zirconia-based particles.

The starting sol contains at least 2 wt.-% zirconia-based particles dispersed, suspended, or a combination thereof in an aqueous medium. In some embodiments, the zirconia-based particles can contain (a) 0 to 10 mol.-% of a lanthanide element oxide, based on total moles of inorganic oxide in the zirconia-based particles, and (b) 0 to 30 mol-% yttrium oxide, based on total moles of inorganic oxide in the zirconia-based particles. The zirconia-based particles are crystalline and have an average primary particle size no greater than 50 nm. In some embodiments, cerium oxide, magnesium oxide, ytterbium oxide, and/or calcium oxide may be used with or in place of the yttria.

Depending on the intended use of the final sintered articles, other inorganic oxides can be included in the zirconia-based particles in addition to zirconium oxide.

Thus, according to one embodiment, the sol described in the present text may comprise one or more inorganic colouring agent(s). The nature and structure of the inorganic colouring agent(s) is not particularly limited, either unless the desired result cannot be achieved. In preferred embodiments the metal ion is not a free salt, but rather is incorporated into the zirconia-based particles. Up to 30 mol.-%, up to 25 mol.-%, up to 20 mol.-%, up to 10 mol.-%, up to 5 mol.- %, up to 2 mol.-%, or up to 1 mol.-% of the zirconia-based particles can be Y2O3, La 2 0 3 , AI2O3, Ce0 2 , Pr 2 0 3 , Nd 2 0 3 , Pm 2 0 3 , Sm 2 0 3 , Eu 2 0 3 , Gd 2 0 3 , Tb 2 0 3 , Dy 2 0 3 , Ho 2 0 3 , Er 2 0 3 , Tm 2 0 3 , Yb 2 0 3 , Fe 2 0 3 , Mn0 2 , Co 2 0 3 , Cr 2 0 3 , NiO, CuO, V 2 0 3 , Bi 2 0 3 , Ga 2 0 3 , Lu 2 03, Hf0 2 , or mixtures thereof. Inorganic oxide such as Fe 2 0 3 , Mn0 2 , Co 2 0 3 , Cr 2 0 3 , NiO, CuO, Ga 2 0 3 , Er 2 0 3 , Pr 2 0 3 , Eu 2 0 3 , Dy 2 0 3 , Sm 2 0 3 , V 2 0 3 , or W 2 0 3 may be added, for example, to alter the colour of the ceramic article to be produced.

If the sol is to be used for producing dental or orthodontic articles, the following inorganic colouring agent (s) were found to be useful: salts of Mn, Fe, Cu, Pr, Nd, Sm, Eu, Tb, Dy, Er, Bi and mixtures thereof, preferably Er, Tb, Mn, Bi, Nd or Fe, Pr, Co, Cr or V, Cu, Eu, Sm, Dy, with Er, Tb, Mn, Bi, Nd being sometimes particularly preferred.

If present, the inorganic colouring agent(s) is present in the following amounts: Lower amount: at least 0.001 or at least 0.005 or at least 0.01 mol.-%;

Upper amount: at most 0.02 or at most 0.05 or at most 0.5 mol.-%;

Range: from 0.001 to 0.5 or from 0.005 to 0.05 mol.-%;

calculated on the moles of the colouring ion being present in the colouring agent and with respect to the total moles of inorganic oxide in the zirconia-based particles.

The starting sol is typically concentrated.

To obtain a more concentrated sol, at least a portion of the aqueous-based medium is removed from the zirconia-based sol. Any known means for removing the aqueous-based medium can be used. This aqueous-based medium contains water and often contains dissolved carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof that are present in the feedstock or that are by-products of the reactions that occur within the hydrothermal reactor. As used herein, the term "carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof refers to carboxylic acids, carboxylate anions of these carboxylic acids, or mixtures thereof. The removal of at least a portion of these dissolved carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof from the zirconia-based sol may be desirable in some embodiments. The zirconia-based sol can be subjected, for example, to at least one of vaporization, drying, ion exchange, solvent exchange, diafiltration, or dialysis, for example, for concentrating, removal of impurities or to compatibilize with other components present in the sol. According to one embodiment, the zirconia-based sol can be subjected to dialysis or diafiltration.

Dialysis and diafiltration both tend to remove at least a portion of the dissolved carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof. For dialysis, a sample of the effluent can be positioned within a membrane bag that is closed and then placed within a water bath. The carboxylic acid and/or carboxylate anions diffuse out of the sample within the membrane bag. That is, these species will diffuse out of the effluent through the membrane bag into the water bath to equalize the concentration within the membrane bag to the concentration in the water bath. The water in the bath is typically replaced several times to lower the concentration of species within the bag. A membrane bag is typically selected that allows diffusion of the carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof but does not allow diffusion of the zirconia-based particles out of the membrane bag.

For diafiltration, a permeable membrane is used to filter the sample. The zirconia particles can be retained by the filter if the pore size of the filter is appropriately chosen. The dissolved carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof pass through the filter. Any liquid that passes through the filter is replaced with fresh water. In a discontinuous diafiltration process, the sample is often diluted to a pre-determined volume and then concentrated back to the original volume by ultrafiltration. The dilution and concentration steps are repeated one or more times until the carboxylic acid and/or anions thereof are removed or lowered to an acceptable concentration level. In a continuous diafiltration process, which is often referred to as a constant volume diafiltration process, fresh water is added at the same rate that liquid is removed through filtration. The dissolved carboxylic acid and/or anions thereof are in the liquid that is removed.

While the majority of the yttrium and lanthanum, if present, are incorporated into the crystalline zirconia particles there is a fraction of these metals that can be removed during the diafiltration or dialysis process. The actual composition of a sol after diafiltration may be different than that before dialysis.

The content of the crystalline nano-sized zirconia particles in the concentrated starting sol is typically in a range from 20 to 70 wt.-%. In some embodiments, the zirconia- based sol can be subjected to a solvent exchange process. An organic solvent having a higher boiling point than water can be added to the effluent. Examples of organic solvents that are suitable for use in a solvent exchange method include l-methoxy-2-propanol, N-methyl pyrrolidone or di ethylene glycol ethyl ether. The water then can be removed by a method such as distillation, rotary evaporation, or oven drying. Depending on the conditions used for removing the water, at least a portion of the dissolved carboxylic acid and/or anion thereof can also be removed. Other organic matrix material can be added to the treated effluent (i.e., other organic matrix material can be added to the zirconia-based particle suspended in the organic solvent used in the solvent exchange process). A zirconia-based sol comprises zirconia-based particles dispersed and/or suspended

(i.e., dispersed, suspended, or a combination thereof) in an aqueous/organic matrix.

The sol to be used in the additive manufacturing process described in the present text (printing sol) can be obtained by manipulating the starting sol.

This can include addition of surface modifiers, addition of radiation curable monomer(s) or oligomer(s), photoinitiators, inhibitors, organic dyes, solvents and a mixture or combination thereof. The concentrations and a composition can be further adjusted through diafiltration, distillation or comparable processes, if desired.

In certain embodiments the printing sol to be used in the additive manufacturing process can be characterized by at least one or more, sometimes all of the following parameters:

a) being translucent in a wave length range from 420 to 600 nm;

b) showing a transmission of at least 5% at 420 nm determined for a path length of 1 cm; c) substantially free of associated nano-sized zirconia particles;

d) being acidic, i.e. having a pH in the range of 1 to 6 or 2 to 5 or 2 to 4 if brought in contact with water;

e) viscosity: less than 500 or less than 300 or less 200 or less than 180 or less than 150 or less than 100 or less than 50 or less than 20 mPa*s at 23°C.

It was found that using a translucent printing sol can be beneficial for improving the accuracy or detail resolution of the surface of the ceramic article. Translucent printing sols show less scattering of light, which is used for polymerizing the radiation curable components contained in the sol. The increased translucency allows for a shallower cure gradient, which may also allow for a more uniform cure across the entire structure to be obtained, as lower energy doses are required to cure through a translucent material.

Many of the compositions and slurries suggested as manufacturing material in an additive manufacturing process described in the prior art are not translucent but rather opaque due to the larger size of the dispersed particles. The printing sol described in the present text allows transmission of ultraviolet/visible radiation.

The percent transmission of the printing sol containing 40 wt.-% zirconia-based particles is typically at least 5 % when measured at 420 nm in a 1 cm sample cell (i.e., the spectrophotometer has a 1 cm path length). In some examples, the percent transmission under these same conditions is at least 7 %, at least 10 % and can be up to 20 % or higher, up to 15 %, or up to 12 %. The percent transmission of a printing sol composition containing 40 wt.-% zirconia-based particles is typically at least 20 % when measured at 600 nm in a 1-centimeter sample cell. In some examples, the percent transmission under these same conditions is at least 30 %, at least 40 % and can be up to 80 % or higher, up to 70 %, or up to 60 %. The printing sol is translucent and not opaque. In some embodiments, the cured green body gel compositions are translucent as well.

The transmission of the ultraviolet/visible radiation should be sufficiently high to form a gel composition layer that adheres to the previously built gel composition layer in a manner that minimizes over build for sufficient realization of the digital file input shape in the gel composition. The "slice thickness" is often slightly smaller than the depth of cure to allow for layer adhesion. Minimizing the difference between "slice thickness" and cure depth can be advantageous for enhanced resolution.

Sols containing non-associated nano-sized zirconia particles can be beneficial as the risk of clogging of nozzles or tubes being present in devices used for the additive manufacturing process is reduced.

Further, filled radiation curable compositions, e.g. slurries or slips, typically result in a reduction in green body strength compared to non-filled curable compositions. Smaller non-associated particles typically provide more surface area for the two phases to interact in an SLA process. This may result in a more robust green body or green body gel. In addition, using nanoscale particles theoretically hold the potential for printing a nanoscale layer. This would not be possible with larger particles. For example, a 25-μιη layer thickness setting with a slurry that has 50 μιη particles doesn't allow for fine realization of the fidelity offered with a small layer thickness. This includes not only the resolution of the material that makes up the part, but also the voids and internal structures that can be realized within the 3D printed part. This also includes the ability to realize ultrathin walls.

Similarly, sols with uniformly dispersed nanoscale particles theoretically allow for smoother surface finishes to be achieved as compared to those with larger particles. Finally, smaller nanoparticles provide opportunity for a more uniform and higher density final sintered part, resulting in greater mechanical and optical performance of the part, important for several applications.

Using an acidic sol is also often beneficial. It was found that an acidic sol containing nano-zirconia particles is more stable than a neutral or basic sol. The risk of formation of agglomerated or aggregated particles contained therein is reduced. However, the sol should not be too acidic. If the sol is too acidic, the risk of the formation of agglomerated or aggregated particles is sometimes increased.

A printing sol having a viscosity in the above range is beneficial e.g. as it can easily be processed through thin nozzles and tubes. There is no need for heating either the nozzles or tubes of the manufacturing unit or the manufacturing material itself.

Typically, a reaction mixture containing filler particles is significantly more viscous than an unfilled reaction mixture. This typically results in longer build times as the material needs more time to flow into position, requirements of additional mechanical actuation to move the material in place, and difficulty in removing the material from the surface of the part (especially considering a lower green body strength) when shaping of the article is finished.

Reducing the viscosity of the reaction mixture can provide improved performance and efficiency.

Low viscosity sols also allow for simple removal of excess materials from internal channels or deep slots, such as in the case of a narrow wire slot on an orthodontic bracket. Higher viscosity sols combined with a green body of lower mechanical strength make the likelihood of fully realizing the small resolution of channels and dips rather low.

A sol having a viscosity in the above range can be beneficial, e.g. as it can easily flow back over the cured area for producing the next layer. It can also facilitate better layer adhesion by being more able to intimately wet out the previous cured layer.

The printing sol typically has a viscosity that is sufficiently low so that it can allow for the formation of small, complex features. In many embodiments, the printing sol has a viscosity that is Newtonian or nearly Newtonian like. That is, the viscosity is independent of shear rate or has only a slight dependence on shear rate.

The viscosity can vary depending on the percent solids of the reaction mixture, the size of the zirconia-based particles, the composition of the solvent medium, the presence or absence of optional non-polymerizable surface modification agents, and the composition of the polymerizable material. The combination of low viscosity and small particle size of the zirconia-based particles advantageously allows the printing sol to be filtered before polymerization. The reaction mixture is often filtered prior to stereolithographic processing. Filtering can be beneficial for removal of debris and impurities that can negatively impact the properties of the gel composition and properties of the sintered article such as optical transmission and strength. Suitable filters often have a pore size of 0.22 μπι, 0.45 μπι, 1 μπι, 2 μπι, or 5 μπι. Traditional ceramic printing compositions cannot be easily filtered due to particle size and/or viscosity.

In some embodiments, the viscosity of the printing sol is at least 2 mPa*s, at least 5 mPa*s, at least 10 mPa*s, at least 25 mPa*s, at least 50 mPa*s, at least 100 mPa*s, at least 150 mPa*s, or at least 200 mPa*s. The viscosity can be up to 500 mPa*s, up to 300 mPa*s, up to 200 mPa*s, up to 100 mPa*s, up to 50 mPa*s, up to 30 mPa*s, or up to 10 mPa*s. For example, the viscosity can be in a range of 2 to 500 mPa*s, 2 to 200 mPa*s, 2 to 100 mPa*s, 2 to 50 mPa*s, 2 to 30 mPa*s, 2 to 20 mPa*s, or 2 to 10 mPa*s. Processing the printing sol described in the present text in a stereolithography -based process also allows for easy and efficient removal of excess of non-polymerized material from the surface of the printed parts.

The printing sol for use in the additive manufacturing process described in the present text comprises one or more solvents, in particular organic solvents.

The nature and structure of the solvent is not particularly limited unless the desired result cannot be achieved.

In certain embodiments the solvent can be characterized by at least one or more, sometimes all of the following parameters:

· Boiling point: above 70 or above 100 or above 120 or above 150 °C;

• Molecular weight: from 25 to 300 or from 30 to 250 g/mol or from 40 to 200 g/mol or from 50 to 175 g/mol;

• Viscosity: from 0.1 to 50 or from 0.2 to 10 or from 0.3 to 5 mPa*s (23°C);

• miscible with water;

· soluble in supercritical carbon dioxide or liquid carbon dioxide.

Using a solvent with a boiling point above 100°C or 150°C can be beneficial for reducing the evaporation of the solvent during the process.

Using a solvent with a molecular weight and/or viscosity in the above range can be beneficial as it helps in adjusting the viscosity of the printing sol. The molecular weight size can also affect the diffusion constant and how easily the solvent can be removed.

Using a mixture of different solvents can be beneficial as it allows to adjust viscosity or post processing properties, e.g. removal of excess sol after printing.

The solvent should be able to dissolve the other components being present in the sol.

The solvent should also be easily removable during the further processing steps needed for the realization of a ceramic article.

Further, the solvent should not interfere with or negatively influence the polymerization of the radiation curable components being present in the sol.

In this respect, using solvents not bearing polymerizable moieties can be beneficial. To enhance the dissolving capability or property of the solvent, the solvent typically bears one or more polar moieties, including ether, alcohol or carboxy moieties.

According to one embodiment, the solvent is often a glycol or polyglycol, mono- ether glycol or mono-ether polyglycol, di-ether glycol or di-ether polyglycol, ether ester glycol or ether ester polyglycol, carbonate, amide, or sulfoxide (e.g., dimethyl sulfoxide). The organic solvents usually have one or more polar groups. The organic solvent does not have a polymerizable group; that is, the organic solvent is free of a group that can undergo free radical polymerization. Further, no component of the solvent medium has a polymerizable group that can undergo free radical polymerization. Suitable glycols or polyglycols, mono-ether glycols or mono-ether polyglycols, di- ether glycols or di-ether polyglycols, and ether ester glycols or ether ester polyglycols are often of the following Formula (I).

In Formula (I), each R 1 independently is hydrogen, alkyl, aryl, or acyl. Suitable alkyl groups often have 1 to 10 carbon atoms, 1 to 6 carbon atoms, or 1 to 4 carbon atoms. Suitable aryl groups often have 6 to 10 carbon atoms and are often phenyl or phenyl substituted with an alkyl group having 1 to 4 carbon atoms. Suitable acyl groups are often of formula - (CO)R a where R a is an alkyl having 1 to 10 carbon atoms, 1 to 6 carbon atoms, 1 to 4 carbon atoms, 2 carbon atoms, or 1 carbon atom. The acyl is often an acetyl group (-(CO)CH3). In Formula (I), each R 2 is typically ethylene or propylene. The variable n is at least 1 and can be in a range of 1 to 10, 1 to 6, 1 to 4, or 1 to 3.

Glycols or polyglycols of Formula (I) have two Rl groups equal to hydrogen. Examples of glycols include, but are not limited to, ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, diethylene glycol, dipropylene glycol, triethylene glycol, and tripropylene glycol. Mono-ether glycols or mono-ether polyglycols of Formula (I) have a first Rl group equal to hydrogen and a second Rl group equal to alkyl or aryl. Examples of mono-ether glycols or mono-ether polyglycols include, but are not limited to, ethylene glycol monohexyl ether, ethylene glycol monophenyl ether, propylene glycol monobutyl ether, diethylene glycol monomethyl ether, diethylene glycol monoethyl ether, diethylene glycol monopropyl ether, diethylene glycol monobutyl ether, diethylene glycol monohexyl ether, dipropylene glycol monomethyl ether, dipropylene glycol monoethyl ether, dipropylene glycol monopropyl ether, Methylene glycol monomethyl ether, triethylene glycol monoethyl ether, triethylene glycol monobutyl ether, tripropylene glycol monomethyl ether, and tripropylene glycol monobutyl ether.

Di-ether glycols or di-ether polyglycols of Formula (I) have two Rl group equal to alkyl or aryl. Examples of di-ether glycols or di-ether polyglycols include, but are not limited to, ethylene glycol dipropyl ether, ethylene glycol dibutyl ether, dipropylene glycol dibutyl ether, diethylene glycol dimethyl ether, diethylene glycol diethyl ether, triethylene glycol dimethyl ether, tetraethylene glycol dimethyl ether, and pentaethylene glycol dimethyl ether.

Ether ester glycols or ether ester polyglycols of Formula (I) have a first Rl group equal to an alkyl or aryl and a second Rl group equal to an acyl. Examples of ether ester glycols or ether ester polyglycols include, but are not limited to, ethylene glycol butyl ether acetate, diethylene glycol butyl ether acetate, and diethylene glycol ethyl ether acetate.

Other suitable organic solvents are carbonates of Formula (II).

In Formula (II), R3 is hydrogen or an alkyl such as an alkyl having 1 to 4 carbon atoms, 1 to 3 carbon atoms, or 1 carbon atom. Examples include ethylene carbonate and propylene carbonate.

Yet other suitable organic solvents are amides of Formula (III).

(III)

In Formula (III), group R 4 is hydrogen, alkyl, or combines with R 5 to form a five- membered ring including the carbonyl attached to R 4 and the nitrogen atom attached to R 5 . Group R 5 is hydrogen, alkyl, or combines with R 4 to form a five-membered ring including the carbonyl attached to R 4 and the nitrogen atom attached to R 5 . Group R 6 is hydrogen or alkyl. Suitable alkyl groups for R 4 , R 5 , and R 6 have 1 to 6 carbon atoms, 1 to 4 carbon atoms, 1 to 3 carbon atoms, or 1 carbon atom. Examples of amide organic solvents of Formula (III) include, but are not limited to, formamide, Ν,Ν-dimethylformamide, N,N- dimethylacetamide, N,N-diethylacetamide, N-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, and N-ethyl-2- pyrrolidone.

Specific examples of solvents which can be used include: mono alcohols (e.g. C2 to C8 alcohols, including primary, secondary and tertiary alcohols), poly alcohols (e.g. ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, glycerine, diethylene glycol ethyl ether (Carbitol™), 1- methoxy-2-propanol, N-methyl pyrrolidone, acetonitrile, chlorobenzene, 1,4-dioxane, ethyl acetate, methyl ethyl ketone, tetrahydrofuran, toluene, xylene and mixtures thereof.

The following solvents are sometimes preferred: ethanol, l-methoxy-2-propanol, N- methyl pyrrolidone, diethylene glycol ethyl ether, and mixtures thereof. In some situations, suitable solvents may also include low boiling alcohols (below 100°C; like methanol, ethanol, propanol) and mixtures thereof or preferably the same solvent(s) described above.

The solvent(s) is typically present in the following amounts:

Lower amount: at least 25 or at least 30 or at least 35 wt.-%;

Upper amount: at most 70 or at most 65 or at most 60 wt.-%;

Range: from 25 to 70 or from 30 to 65 or from 35 to 60 or from 35 to 55 or from 35 to 50 wt.-%;

wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol.

The sol for use in the additive manufacturing process described in the present text comprises nano-sized or nanoscale zirconia particles.

The nature and structure of the nano-sized zirconia particles is not particularly limited, either, unless the desired result cannot be achieved.

The sol typically comprises zirconia crystallites having a certain tetragonal and/or cubic phase content. In certain embodiments the nano-sized zirconia particles(s) can be characterized by at least one or more, sometimes all of the following parameters or features:

• primary particle size XRD (diameter): from 2 to 50 or from 2 to 20 nm or from 2 to 15 or from 4 to 15 nm;

• being essentially spherical or cuboidal;

· being non-associated; • being crystalline;

• not being coated with an inorganic coloring agent.

"Essentially spherical" means that the shape of the particles is close to a sphere. It does not contain sharp edges, which may result from a milling process. The nano-sized zirconia particles can be characterized by at least one or more or all of the following features:

• ZrC-2 content: from 70 to 100 mol.-% or from 80 to 97 mol.-%;

• Hf02 content: from 0 to 4.5 mol.-% or from 0 to 3 mol.-% or from 0.1 to 2.8 mol.-%;

• Stabilizer selected from Y2O3, Ce0 2 , MgO, CaO, La 2 0 3 or a combination thereof in an amount from 0 to 30 mol.-% or from 1.5 to 20 mol.-% or from 2 to 10 mol.-% or 2 to 5 mol-%;

• AI2O3 content: from 0 to 1 mol.-% or from 0.005 to 0.5 mol.-% or from 0.01 to 0.2 mol.- %.

According to one embodiment, the nano-sized zirconia particles are characterized as follows: Zr0 2 content: from 70 to 98.4 mol-%; Hf0 2 content: from 0.1 to 2.8 mol-%; Y 2 0 3 content: from 1.5 to 20 mol-%.

The nano-sized zirconia particles can be obtained or are obtainable by a process comprising the steps of hydrothermal treatment of an aqueous metal salt solution or suspension (e.g. zirconium salt, yttrium salt). Such a process is described in WO 2013/055432 (3M), the content of which is herewith incorporated by reference.

The zirconia particles are contained in the printing sol in an amount of 2 to 25 vol.- % or 4 to 18 vol.-% or 5 to 16 vol.-%.

With respect to wt.-%, the printing sol used to form the gel composition typically contains 20 to 70 wt.-% zirconia-based particles based on a total weight of the printing sol. The amount of zirconia-based particles can be at least 20 wt.-%, at least 25 wt.-%, at least 30 wt.-%, at least 35 wt.-%, or at least 40 wt.-% and can be up to 70 wt.-%, up to 60 wt.-%, up to 50 wt.-%, or up to 45 wt.-%. In some embodiments, the amount of the zirconia-based particles are in a range of 20 to 70 wt.-%, 25 to 60 wt.-%, 30 to 55 wt.-%, 30 to 50 wt.-%, 40 to 50 wt.-%, or 35 to 45 wt.-% based on the total weight of the printing sol. Compared to zirconia containing slurries or slips described in the prior art (e.g. US 7,927,538 B2), the printing sol described in the present text contains the zirconia particles in only a comparably low volume content. This facilitates adjusting the sol to a desired low viscosity, which may contribute to an easier processing. It may also allow the manufacturing of 3 -dim articles in an enlarged state, which can be sintered to the desired dimension later, as described later in the text.

Compared to using amorphous particles, using crystalline nano-sized zirconia particles was found to be beneficial as these particles show better performance during a later sintering step. The risk of the occurrence of cracks during a sintering step is typically lower. According to a further embodiment, the printing sol described in the present text comprises one or more inhibitor(s).

The nature and structure of the inhibitor(s) is not particularly limited, either, unless the desired result cannot be achieved.

An inhibitor may extend the shelf life of the printing sol, help prevent undesired side reactions, and adjust the polymerization process of the radiation curable component(s) present in the sol.

Adding one or more inhibitor(s) to the printing sol may further help to improving the accuracy or detail resolution of the surface of the ceramic article.

In particular it was found that adding inhibitor(s) to the printing sol described in the present text may help to enhance the resolution and accuracy of the SLA process by attenuating or avoiding unwanted scattering effects, as well as increase the shelf life of the printing sol.

The inhibitor(s) should be soluble in the solvent contained in the sol. Inhibitors which can be used often comprise a phenol moiety. Specific examples of inhibitor(s) which can be used include: butylhydroxytoluol

(Ionol), p-methoxyphenol (MOP), hydroquinone monomethylether (MEHQ), 2,6-di-tert- butyl-4-methyl-phenol (BHT), phenothiazine, 2,2,6,6-tetramethyl-piperidine-l-oxyl radical (TEMPO) and mixtures thereof.

If present, the inhibitor(s) is present in the following amounts:

Lower amount: at least 0.001 or at least 0.005 or at least 0.01 wt.-%; Upper amount: at most 0.02 or at most 0.05 or at most 0.5 wt.-%;

Range: from 0.001 to 0.5 or from 0.005 to 0.15 wt.-%;

wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol.

The printing sol described in the present text comprises one or more radiation curable components being part of or forming an organic matrix.

The radiation curable components being present in the printing sol can be described as first, second, third, etc. monomer.

The nature and structure of the radiation curable component(s) is not particularly limited unless the desired result cannot be achieved. Upon polymerization, the radiation curable components form a network with the homogeneously dispersed nano-sized zirconia particles.

The printing sol described in the present text contains as a first monomer a polymerizable surface modification agent.

A surface modification agent may help to improve compatibility of the zirconia particles contained in the sol with an organic matrix material being present in the sol as well.

Surface modification agents may be represented by the formula A-B, where the A group is capable of attaching to the surface of a zirconia-based particle and the B group is radiation curable.

Group A can be attached to the surface of the zirconia-based particle by adsorption, formation of an ionic bond, formation of a covalent bond, or a combination thereof.

Examples for Group A include acidic moieties (like carboxylic acid groups, phosphoric acid groups, sulfonic acid groups and anions thereof) and silanes.

Group B comprises a radiation curable moiety. Examples for Group B include vinyl, in particular acryl or methacryl moieties. Suitable surface modifying agents comprise polymerizable carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof, polymerizable sulfonic acids and/or anions thereof, polymerizable phosphoric acids and/or anions thereof, and polymerizable silanes. Suitable surface modification agents are further described, for example, in WO 2009/085926 (Kolb et al.), the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. An example of a radically polymerizable surface modifier is a polymerizable surface modification agent comprising an acidic moiety or anion thereof, e.g. a carboxylic acid group.

Exemplary acidic radically polymerizable surface modifiers include acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, beta-carboxyethyl acrylate, and mono-2-(methacryloxyethyl)succinate.

Exemplary radically polymerizable surface modifiers can be reaction products of hydroxyl-containing polymerizable monomers with cyclic anhydrides such as succinic anhydride, maleic anhydride and phthalic anhydride. Exemplary polymerization hydroxyl- containing monomers include hydroxyethyl acrylate, hydroxyethyl methacrylate, hydroxypropyl acrylate, hydroxypropyl methacrylate, hydroxyl butyl acrylate, and hydroxybutyl methacrylate. Aciyloxy and methaciyloxy functional polyethylene oxide, and polypropylene oxide may also be used as the polymerizable hydroxyl-containing monomers.

An exemplary radically polymerizable surface modifier for imparting both polar character and reactivity to the zirconia-containing nanoparticles is mono(methacryloxypolyethyleneglycol) succinate.

Another example of a radically polymerizable surface modifier is a polymerizable silane. Exemplary polymerizable silanes include methacryloxyalkyltrialkoxysilanes, or acryloxyalkyltrialkoxysilanes (e.g., 3-methacryloxypropyltrimethoxysilane, 3- acryloxypropyltrimethoxy silane, and 3 -(methacryloxy)propyltriethoxy silane; as 3- (methacryloxy)propylmethyldimethoxy silane, and 3-

(acryloxypropyl)methyldimethoxysilane); methacryloxyalkyldialkylalkoxysilanes or acyrloxyalkyldialkylalkoxysilanes (e.g., 3-(methacryloxy)propyldimethylethoxysilane); mercaptoalkyltrialkoxylsilanes (e.g., 3-mercaptopropyltrimethoxysilane); aryltrialkoxysilanes (e.g., styrylethyltrimethoxysilane); vinylsilanes (e.g., vinylmethyldiacetoxysilane, vinyldimethylethoxysilane, vinylmethyldiethoxysilane, vinyltrimethoxysilane, vinyltriethoxysilane, vinyltriacetoxysilane, vinyltriisopropoxysilane, vinyltrimethoxysilane, and vinyltris(2- methoxyethoxy)silane).

A surface modification agent can be added to the zirconia-based particles using conventional techniques. The surface modification agent can be added before or after any removal of at least a portion of the carboxylic acids and/or anions thereof from the zirconia- based sol. The surface modification agent can be added before or after removal of the water from the zirconia-based sol. The organic matrix can be added before or after surface modification or simultaneously with surface modification. Various methods of adding the surface modification agent are further described, for example, in WO 2009/085926 (Kolb et al.), the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. The surface modification reactions can occur at room temperature (e.g., 20°C to

25°C) or at an elevated temperature (e.g., up to 95°C). When the surface modification agents are acids such as carboxylic acids, the zirconia-based particles typically can be surface-modified at room temperature. When the surface modification agents are silanes, the zirconia-based particles are typically surface modified at elevated temperatures. The first monomer can function as a polymerizable surface modification agent.

Multiple first monomers can be used. The first monomer can be the only kind of surface modification agent or can be combined with one or more other non-polymerizable surface modification agents. In some embodiments, the amount of the first monomer is at least 20 wt.-% based on a total weight of polymerizable material. For example, the amount of the first monomer is often at least 25 wt.-%, at least 30 wt.-%, at least 35 wt.-%, or at least 40 wt.-%. The amount of the first monomer can be up to 100 wt.-%, up to 90 wt.-%, up to 80 wt.-%, up to 70 wt.-%, up to 60 wt.-%, or up to 50 wt.-%. Some printing sols contain 20 to 100 wt.-%, 20 to 80 wt.-%, 20 to 60 wt.-%, 20 to 50 wt.-%, or 30 to 50 wt.-% of the first monomer based on a total weight of polymerizable material. The first monomer (i.e. the polymerizable surface modification agent) can be the only monomer in the polymerizable material or it can be combined with one or more second monomers that are soluble in the solvent medium.

According to one embodiment, the printing sol described in the present text comprises one or more second monomers comprising at least one or two radiation curable moieties. Those second monomer(s) may act as crosslinker(s) during the gel-forming step.

Any suitable second monomer that does not have a surface modification group can be used. The second monomer does not have a group being capable of attaching to the surface of a zirconia-based particle.

A successful build typically requires a certain level of green body gel strength as well as shape resolution. A crosslinked approach often times allows for greater green body gel strength to be realized at a lower energy dose since the polymerization creates a stronger network. In some examples, higher energy doses have been applied to increase layer adhesion of non crosslinked systems. While an article is successfully built, often times the higher energy impacts the resolution of the final article, causing overbuild to potentially occur, especially in the case of highly translucent materials where the cure depth can penetrate further into the material. An alternative solution involves the addition of an organic dye to decrease the cure depth, and therefore resolution realized with a higher energy dose, while still allowing for a greater degree of polymerization to occur due to a higher energy dose.

The presence of the monomer having a plurality of polymerizable groups tends to enhance the strength of the gel composition formed when the printing sol is polymerized. Such gel compositions can be easier to process without cracking. The amount of the monomer with a plurality of the polymerizable groups can be used to adjust the flexibility and the strength of the green body gel, and indirectly optimize the green body gel resolution and final article resolution.

In the case where the light source is applied from below, it was found that applying crosslink chemistry may help to increase the strength of the adhesion between layers so that when the build platform is raised after the cure step, the newly cured layer moves with the building shape, rather than being separated from the rest of the build and left behind on the transparent film, which would be considered a failed build.

A successful build could be defined as the scenario when the material adheres better to the previously cured layers than the build tray film to allow for a three-dimensional structure to be grown one layer at a time.

This performance could in theory be achieved by applying an increased energy dose (higher power, or longer light exposure) to provide a stronger adhesion up to a certain point characteristic of the bulk material. However, in a fairly transparent system where light absorbing additives are not present a higher energy exposure will eventually provide a depth of cure significantly greater than the ' slice thickness' creating an over-cured situation where the resolution of the part is significantly beyond that of the 'slice thickness' . Adding a radiation curable component comprising at least two radiation curable moieties to the printing sol described in the present text facilitates the optimization of resolution as well as green body strength.

In the case of transforming the green body into a fully dense ceramic, increased green body gel strength aids in the robustness of the post-building procedures.

That is, the optional second monomer does not have a carboxylic acid group or a silyl group. The second monomers are often polar monomers (e.g., non-acidic polar monomers), monomers having a plurality of polymerizable groups, alkyl (meth)acrylates and mixtures thereof. The overall composition of the polymerizable material is often selected so that the polymerized material is soluble in the solvent medium. Homogeneity of the organic phase is often preferable to avoid phase separation of the organic component in the gel composition. This tends to result in the formation of smaller and more homogeneous pores (pores with a narrower size distribution) in the subsequently formed dry gel. The dry gel may be a xerogel or aerogel. Further, the overall composition of the polymerizable material can be selected to adjust compatibility with the solvent medium and to adjust the strength, flexibility, and uniformity of the gel composition. Still further, the overall composition of the polymerizable material can be selected to adjust the burnout characteristics of the organic material prior to sintering. In many embodiments, the second monomer includes a monomer having a plurality of polymerizable groups. The number of polymerizable groups can be in a range of 2 to 6 or even higher. In many embodiments, the number of polymerizable groups is in a range of 2 to 5 or 2 to 4. The polymerizable groups are typically (meth)acryloyl groups.

Exemplary monomers with two (meth)acryloyl groups include 1,2-ethanediol diacrylate, 1,3 -propanediol diacrylate, 1,9-nonanediol diacrylate, 1,12-dodecanediol diacrylate, 1,4-butanediol diacrylate, 1,6-hexanediol diacrylate, butylene glycol diacrylate, bisphenol A diacrylate, diethylene glycol diacrylate, triethylene glycol diacrylate, tetraethylene glycol diacrylate, tripropylene glycol diacrylate, polyethylene glycol diacrylate, polypropylene glycol diacrylate, polyethylene/polypropylene copolymer diacrylate, polybutadiene di(meth)acrylate, propoxylated glycerin tri(meth)acrylate, and neopentylglycol hydroxypivalate diacrylate modified caprolactone. Exemplary monomers with three or four (meth)acryloyl groups include, but are not limited to, trimethylolpropane triacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation TMPTA-N from Cytec Industries, Inc. (Smyrna, GA, USA) and under the trade designation SR-351 from Sartomer (Exton, PA, USA)), pentaerythritol triacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation SR-444 from Sartomer), ethoxylated (3) trimethylolpropane triacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation SR- 454 from Sartomer), ethoxylated (4) pentaerythritol tetraacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation SR-494 from Sartomer), tris(2- hydroxyethylisocyanurate) triacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation SR-368 from Sartomer), a mixture of pentaerythritol triacrylate and pentaerythritol tetraacrylate (e.g., commercially available from Cytec Industries, Inc., under the trade designation PETIA with an approximately 1 : 1 ratio of tetraacrylate to triacrylate and under the trade designation PETA-K with an approximately 3 : 1 ratio of tetraacrylate to triacrylate), pentaerythritol tetraacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation SR-295 from Sartomer), and di-trimethylolpropane tetraacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation SR-355 from Sartomer).

Exemplary monomers with five or six (meth)acryloyl groups include, but are not limited to, dipentaerythritol pentaacrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation SR-399 from Sartomer) and a hexa-functional urethane acrylate (e.g., commercially available under the trade designation CN975 from Sartomer).

Some printing sol compositions contain 0 to 80 wt.-% of a second monomer having a plurality of polymerizable groups based on a total weight of the polymerizable material. For example, the amount can be in a range of 10 to 80 wt.-%, 20 to 80 wt.-%, 30 to 80 wt- %, 40 to 80 wt.-%, 10 to 70 wt.-%, 10 to 50 wt.-%, 10 to 40 wt.-%, or 10 to 30 wt.-%. In some embodiments, the optional second monomer is a polar monomer. As used herein, the term "polar monomer" refers to a monomer having a free radical polymerizable group and a polar group. The polar group is typically non-acidic and often contains a hydroxyl group, a primary amido group, a secondary amido group, a tertiary amido group, an amino group, or an ether group (i.e., a group containing at least one alkylene-oxy- alkylene group of formula -R-O-R- where each R is an alkylene having 1 to 4 carbon atoms). Suitable optional polar monomers having a hydroxyl group include, but are not limited to, hydroxyalkyl (meth)acrylates (e.g., 2-hydroxy ethyl (meth)acrylate, 2- hydroxypropyl (meth)acrylate, 3-hydroxypropyl (meth)acrylate, and 4-hydroxybutyl (meth)acrylate), and hydroxyalkyl (meth)acrylamides (e.g., 2-hydroxyethyl (meth)acrylamide or 3-hydroxypropyl (meth)acrylamide), ethoxylated hydroxy ethyl (meth)acrylate (e.g., monomers commercially available from Sartomer (Exton, PA, USA) under the trade designation CD570, CD571, and CD572), and aryloxy substituted hydroxyalkyl (meth)acrylates (e.g., 2-hydroxy-2-phenoxypropyl (meth)acrylate).

Exemplary polar monomers with a primary amido group include (meth)acrylamide. Exemplary polar monomers with secondary amido groups include, but are not limited to, N- alkyl (meth)acrylamides such as N-methyl (meth)acrylamide, N-ethyl (meth)acryl amide, N- isopropyl (meth)acrylamide, N-tert-octyl (meth)acrylamide, and N-octyl (meth)acrylamide. Exemplary polar monomers with a tertiary amido group include, but are not limited to, N- vinyl caprolactam, N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone, (meth)acryloyl morpholine, and N,N-dialkyl (meth)acrylamides such as Ν,Ν-dimethyl (meth)acrylamide, N,N-di ethyl (meth)acrylamide, Ν,Ν-dipropyl (meth)acrylamide, and Ν,Ν-dibutyl (meth)acrylamide.

Polar monomers with an amino group include various N,N-dialkylaminoalkyl (meth)acrylates and Ν,Ν-dialkylaminoalkyl (meth)acrylamides. Examples include, but are not limited to, Ν,Ν-dimethyl aminoethyl (meth)acrylate, N,N-dimethylaminoethyl (meth)acrylamide, Ν,Ν-dimethylaminopropyl (meth)acrylate, N,N-dimethylaminopropyl (meth)acrylamide, Ν,Ν-diethylaminoethyl (meth)acrylate, N,N-diethylaminoethyl (meth)acrylamide, Ν,Ν-diethylaminopropyl (meth)acrylate, and N,N-diethylaminopropyl (meth)acry 1 ami de .

Exemplary polar monomers with an ether group include, but are not limited to, alkoxylated alkyl (meth)acrylates such as ethoxyethoxyethyl (meth)acrylate, 2- methoxyethyl (meth)acrylate, and 2-ethoxyethyl (meth)acrylate; and poly(alkylene oxide) (meth)acrylates such as poly(ethylene oxide) (meth)acrylates, and poly(propylene oxide) (meth)acrylates. The poly(alkylene oxide) acrylates are often referred to as poly(alkylene glycol) (meth)acrylates. These monomers can have any suitable end group such as a hydroxyl group or an alkoxy group. For example, when the end group is a methoxy group, the monomer can be referred to as methoxy poly(ethylene glycol) (meth)acrylate. Suitable alkyl (meth)acrylates that can be used as a second monomer can have an alkyl group with a linear, branched, or cyclic structure. Examples of suitable alkyl (meth)acrylates include, but are not limited to, methyl (meth)acrylate, ethyl (meth)acrylate, n-propyl (meth)acrylate, isopropyl (meth)acrylate, n-butyl (meth)acrylate, isobutyl (meth)acrylate, n-pentyl (meth)acrylate, 2-methylbutyl (meth)acrylate, n-hexyl (meth)acrylate, cyclohexyl (meth)acrylate, 4-methyl-2-pentyl (meth)acrylate, 2-ethylhexyl (meth)acrylate, 2-methylhexyl (meth)acrylate, n-octyl (meth)acrylate, isooctyl (meth)acrylate, 2-octyl (meth)acrylate, isononyl (meth)acrylate, isoamyl (meth)acrylate, 3,3,5-trimethylcyclohexyl (meth)acrylate, n-decyl (meth)acrylate, isodecyl (meth)acrylate, isobornyl (meth)acrylate, 2-propylheptyl (meth)acrylate, isotridecyl (meth)acrylate, isostearyl (meth)acrylate, octadecyl (meth)acrylate, 2-octyldecyl (meth)acrylate, dodecyl (meth)acrylate, lauryl (meth)acrylate, and heptadecanyl (meth)acrylate.

The amount of a second monomer that is a polar monomer and/or an alkyl (meth)acrylate monomer is often in a range of 0 to 40 wt.-%, 0 to 35 wt.-%, 0 to 30 wt.-%, 5 to 40 wt.-%, or 10 to 40 wt.-% based on a total weight of the polymerizable material.

The total amount of polymerizable material is often at least 2 wt.-%, at least 3 wt- %, at least 5 wt.-%, or at least 10 wt.-% based on the total weight of the printing sol. The amount of polymerizable material can be up to 30 wt.-%, up to 25 wt.-%, up to 20 wt.-%, or up to 15 wt.-% based on the total weight of the printing sol. For example, the amount of polymerizable material can be in a range of 2-30 wt.-%, 3-20 wt.-%, or 5-15 wt.-% based on the total weight of the printing sol.

Overall, the polymerizable material typically contains 20 to 100 wt.-% first monomer and 0 to 80 wt.-% second monomer based on a total weight of polymerizable material. For example, polymerizable material includes 30 to 100 wt.-% first monomer and 0 to 70 wt.-% second monomer, 30 to 90 wt.-% first monomer and 10 to 70 wt.-% second monomer, 30 to 80 wt.-% first monomer and 20 to 70 wt.-% second monomer, 30 to 70 wt- % first monomer and 30 to 70 wt.-% second monomer, 40 to 90 wt.-% first monomer and 10 to 60 wt.-% second monomer, 40 to 80 wt.-% first monomer and 20 to 60 wt.-% second monomer, 50 to 90 wt.-% first monomer and 10 to 50 wt.-% second monomer, or 60 to 90 wt.-% first monomer and 10 to 40 wt.-% second monomer. In some applications, it can be advantageous to minimize the weight ratio of polymerizable material to zirconia-based particles in the reaction mixture. This tends to reduce the amount of decomposition products of organic material that needs to be burned out prior to formation of the sintered article. The weight ratio of polymerizable material to zirconia-based particles is often at least 0.05, at least 0.08, at least 0.09, at least 0.1, at least 0.11, or at least 0.12. The weight ratio of polymerizable material to zirconia-based particles can be up to 0.80, up to 0.6, up to 0.4, up to 0.3, up to 0.2, or up to 0.1. For example, the ratio can be in a range of 0.05 to 0.8, 0.05 to 0.6, 0.05 to 0.4, 0.05 to 0.2, 0.05 to 0.1, 0.1 to 0.8, 0.1 to 0.4, or 0.1 to 0.3. In certain embodiments the second monomer(s) can be characterized by at least one or more, sometimes all of the following parameters:

• soluble in the solvent contained in the sol;

• bearing at least one or two or three radiation curable moieties;

• bearing radiation curable moieties selected from vinyl, acryl or methacryl moieties; · molecular weight from 70 to 5,000 or from 70 to 1,000 g/mol or from 100 to 500 g/mol.

Using radiation curable component(s) as described above having a molecular weight in the above range facilitates the provision of a sol having the desired viscosity. Lower molecular weight components are typically also better soluble than high molecular weight components. If present, the second monomer is typically present in the following amounts:

Lower amount: at least 0.5 or at least 1 or at least 3 wt.-%;

Upper amount: at most 5 or at most 10 or at most 24 wt.-%;

Range: from 0.5 to 24 or from 3 to 10 wt.-%;

wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol. The printing sol described in the present text comprises one or more photoinitiator(s).

The nature and structure of the photoinitiator is not particularly limited, either, unless the desired result cannot be achieved.

In certain embodiments the photoinitiator(s) can be characterized by at least one or more, sometimes all of the following parameters: • Soluble in the solvent contained in the sol;

• Radiation absorption: within a range from 200 to 500 or from 300 to 450 nm.

The photoinitiator should be able to start or initiate the curing or hardening reaction of the radiation curable component(s) being present in the printing sol. The following classes of photoinitiator(s) can be used: a) two-component system where a radical is generated through abstraction of a hydrogen atom form a donor compound; b) one component system where two radicals are generated by cleavage.

Examples of photoiniators according to type (a) typically contain a moiety selected from benzophenone, xanthone or quinone in combination with an aliphatic amine. Examples of photoinitiators according to type (b) typically contain a moiety selected form benzoin ether, acetophenon, benzoyl oxime or acyl phosphine.

Exemplary UV initiators include 1 -hydroxy cyclohexyl benzophenone (available, for example, under the trade designation "IRGACURE 184" from Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp., Tarrytown, NY), 4-(2-hydroxyethoxy)phenyl-(2-hydroxy-2-propyl) ketone (available, for example, under the trade designation "IRGACURE 2529" from Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp.), 2-hydroxy-2-methylpropiophenone (available, for example, under the trade designation "DAROCURE Dl 11" from Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp. and bis(2,4,6-trimethylbenzoyl)-phenylposphineoxide (available, for example, under the trade designation "IRGACURE 819" from Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corp.). The photoinitiator(s) is typically present in the following amounts:

Lower amount: at least 0.01 or at least 0.1 or at least 0.5 wt.-%;

Upper amount: at most 0.5 or at most 1.5 or at most 3 wt.-%;

Range: from 0.01 to 3 or from 0.5 to 1.5 wt.-%;

wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol. In addition to the radically polymerizable surface modifiers described above, the sol described in the present text may also comprise a surface modification agent without a polymerizable group that can undergo free radical polymerization reactions.

Such an optional surface modification agent is usually a carboxylic acid or salt thereof, sulfonic acid or salt thereof, phosphoric acid or salt thereof, phosphonic acid or salt thereof, or silane that can attach to a surface of the zirconia-based particles. In many embodiments, the optional surface modification agents are carboxylic acids that do not contain a polymerizable group that can undergo a free radical polymerization reaction.

In some embodiments, the optional non-polymerizable surface modification agent is a carboxylic acid and/or anion thereof and has a compatibility group that imparts a polar character to the zirconia-based nanoparticles. For example, the surface modification agent can be a carboxylic acid and/or anion thereof having an alkylene oxide or polyalkylene oxide group. In some embodiments, the carboxylic acid surface modification agent is of the formula (IV).

H 3 CO-[(CH2) y O]z-Q-COOH (IV) In this formula, Q is a divalent organic linking group, z is an integer in the range of

1 to 10, and y is an integer in the range of 1 to 4. The group Q includes at least one alkylene group or arylene group and can further include one or more oxy, thio, carbonyloxy, carbonylimino groups. Representative examples of this formula include, but are not limited to, 2-[2-(2-methoxyethoxy)ethoxy]acetic acid (MEEAA) and 2-(2-methoxyethoxy)acetic acid (MEAA). Still other representative carboxylic acids are the reaction product of an aliphatic anhydride and a polyalkylene oxide mono-ether such as succinic acid mono-[2-(2- methoxy-ethoxy)-ethyl] ester, and glutaric acid mono-[2-(2-methoxy-ethoxy)-ethyl] ester.

In other embodiments, the optional non-polymerizable surface modification agent is a carboxylic acid and/or anion thereof and the compatibility group can impart a non-polar character to the zirconia-containing nanoparticles. For example, the surface modification agent can be a carboxylic acid of formula R c -COOH or a salt thereof where R c is an alkyl group having at least 5 carbon atoms, at least 6 carbon atoms, at least 8 carbon atoms, or at least 10 carbon atoms. R c often has up to 20 carbon atoms, up to 18 carbon atoms, or up to 12 carbon atoms. Representative examples include octanoic acid, lauric acid, dodecanoic acid, stearic acid, and combinations thereof.

In addition to modifying the surface of the zirconia-based particles to minimize the likelihood of agglomeration and/or aggregation when the sol is concentrated, the optional non-polymerizable surface modification agent can be used to adjust the viscosity of the sol.

Any suitable amount of the optional non-polymerizable surface modification agent can be used. If present, the optional non-polymerizable surface modification agent usually is added in an amount equal to at least 0.5 wt.-% based on the weight of the zirconia-based particles. For example, the amount can be equal to at least 1 wt.-%, at least 2 wt.-%, at least 3 wt.-%, at least 4 wt.-%, or at least 5 wt.-% and can be up to 15 wt.-% or more, up to 12 wt.-%, up to 10 wt.-%, up to 8 wt.-%, or up to 6 wt.-%. The amount of the optional non- polymerizable surface modification agent is typically in a range of 0 to 15 wt.-%, 0.5 to 15 wt.-%, 0.5 to 10 wt.-%, 1 to 10 wt.-%, or 3 to 10 wt.-% based on the weight of the zirconia- based particles.

Stated differently, the amount of the optional non-polymerizable surface modification agent is often in a range of 0 to 10 wt.-% based on a total weight of the printing sol. The amount is often at least 0.5 wt.-%, at least 1 wt.-%, at least 2 wt.-%, or at least 3 wt.-% and can be up to 10 wt.-%, up to 8 wt.-%, up to 6 wt.-%, or up to 5 wt.-% based on the total weight of the printing sol.

The printing sol described in the present text may also comprise one or more organic dye(s).

The nature and structure of the organic dye(s) is not particularly limited unless the desired result cannot be achieved.

It was found that by adding an organic dye, the ability of the translucent sol described in the present text to absorb radiation can be enhanced. Adding an organic dye may contribute to supress or to lower the transmission of scattered light in the sol. This often helps to improve the accuracy or detail resolution of the surface of the ceramic article obtained from the additive manufacturing process.

In certain embodiments the organic dye(s) can be characterized by at least one, more, of all of the following parameters:

· soluble in the solvent contained in the sol;

• radiation absorption: within a range from 200 to 500 or from 300 to 450 nm;

• combustible without residues at temperature below 800 °C;

• molecular weight in the range of 50 to 1,000 g/mol. The organic dye does typically not contain elements or ions other than alkaline metal ions (e.g. Li, Na, K), earth alkaline metal ions (e.g. Mg, Ca), C, N, O, H, S, P, Halogen (F, CI, Br). That is, the organic dye molecule does typically not contain any heavy metal ions (e.g. metal ions having an atomic mass above 40 or above 45. Dyes which can be used include those containing a moiety selected form azo groups and/or aromatic (hetero) cycles or other systems with delocalized pi-electrons

Specific examples of dye(s) which can be used include riboflavin (E101), tartrazine (E102), isatin, azorubin (E122) and combinations thereof.

If present, the organic dye(s) is present in the following amounts:

Lower amount: at least 0.001 or at least 0.002 or at least 0.005 wt.-%;

Upper amount: at most 0.2 or at most 0.08 or at most 0.05 wt.-%;

Range: from 0.001 to 0.2 or from 0.002 to 0.08 or 0.005 to 0.05 wt.-%;

wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol.

The sol described in the present text does typically not comprise one or more or all of the following components:

• wax(es) in an amount of more than 0.1 wt.-%;

• insoluble pigment(s) in an amount of more than 0.5 wt.-%;

• particles having an average primary particle diameter larger than 50 or 60 or 80 nm in an amount of more than 5 or 1 wt.-%;

· stabilizers comprising an Ν,Ν-dialkylamine group;

wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol.

Adding those components to the sol described in the present text may result in a composition, the processing of which may cause problems in additive manufacturing processes. In particular, components being insoluble in the solvent like pigment(s) can sometimes cause problems, e.g. due to undesired light scattering.

According to one embodiment, the printing sol described in the present text used as construction material in the additive manufacturing process is characterized as follows:

• Solvent content: from 25 to 70 or from 40 to 65 wt.-%; the sol having preferably a boiling point above 70°C and being selected from alcohols and glycol ethers; • Polymerizable material content: from 2 to 30 wt.-%, or from 3 to 20 wt.-% or from 5 to 15 wt.-%, the polymerizable material comprising a first monomer having at least one radiation curable moiety and an acidic or silyl moiety;

• Photoinitiator content: from 0.01 to 3 or from 0.5 to 1.5 wt.-%;

· Nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles content: from 20 to 70 or from 30 to 50 wt.-%;

• Inhibitor content: from 0 to 0.5 or from 0.001 to 0.15 wt.-%;

• Organic dye content: from 0 to 0.2 or from 0.01 to 0.1 wt.-%;

wt.-% with respect to the weight of the printing sol.

The printing sol described in the present text can be obtained as follows: A starting sol containing nano-sized particles as described in the present text is provided.

To this starting sol the other components are added: the radiation curable component(s), the photoinitiator(s), and optionally the organic dye(s), inhibitor(s), soluble inorganic colouring agent(s), and other additive(s), if desired. The preparation of the printing sol is typically conducted under safe light conditions to avoid an undesired early polymerization.

The printing sol is typically stored in a suitable device like a vessel, a bottle, cartridge or container before use.

The present invention is also directed to a process for producing a ceramic article. Such a process comprises the steps of:

(a) providing a printing sol comprising nano-sized zirconia particles, solvent, radiation curable component(s), photoinitiator, optionally organic dye(s) and optionally inhibitor(s), as described in the present text,

(b) processing the printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process to obtain a 3 -dim article being in a gel state, the 3 -dim article having a Volume A,

(c) additive manufacturing the desired geometries by sequential light curing of layers,

(d) optionally cleaning the surface of the 3 -dim article being in a gel state, in particular for the purpose of removing any residues of non-reacted printing sol,

(e) optionally post-curing (e.g. by heating or light curing) the 3-dim article being in a gel state to a temperature in the range of 35 to 80 °C or by additional light hardening in particular for the purpose of increasing the stability of the 3 -dim article being in a gel state, that 3 -dim article having a Volume B,

(f) optionally soaking the 3-dim article being in a gel state with another solvent (ethanol or a solvent having a high boiling point like diethylene glycol ethyl ether), in particular for the purpose of exchanging the solvent for a more desirable one for further processing steps

(g) transferring the 3-dim article being in a gel state to a 3-dim article being in a dry state in the form of an aerogel or xerogel, preferably an aerogel by applying a supercritical drying step to the 3-dim article being in a gel state, in particular for the purpose of removing the solvent, that 3-dim article being in an aerogel state having a Volume C,

(h) optionally heating the 3-dim article being in an aerogel state to a temperature in the range of 400 to 800 °C, in particular for the purpose of removing residual organic components and to further increasing the stability, to obtain a green body, that 3-dim article having a Volume D,

(i) optionally heating the 3-dim article of the previous step to a temperature in the range of 800 to 1100 °C, in particular for the purpose of creating a pre-sintered body or white body having a porous structure, that 3-dim article having a Volume E,

(j) optionally coloring at least parts of the surface of the 3-dim article of the previous step, in particular for the purpose of adjusting the color and individualizing the desired 3-d article,

(k) applying a heat treatment step to obtain a sintered 3-dim ceramic article, the ceramic article having a Volume F,

wherein Volume A = or > Volume B > Volume C > Volume D > Volume E > Volume F.

The symbol "=" means that Volume A is essentially equal to Volume B. Thus, a slight deviation of e.g. +/- 5 % is allowed.

If desired and if a printing sol is used which already contains coloring components, steps (h), (i), (j) and (k) can be combined. Thus, there is no need or requirement to conduct those steps separately. The optional steps (h), (i) and (j) can be omitted. By continuously heating the 3-dim article being in an aerogel state to a temperature up to 1000 or 1050 or 1100°C, the organic residues will be burnt out first before the remaining inorganic components begin to adhere together and form a pre-sintered article.

According to one embodiment, the relationship of the individual volumes is as follows, for Volume A being scaled to 100: Volume A = 100

Volume B = 100 to 99 or 100 to 99.5 or 100 to 99.9

Volume C = 90 to 50

Volume D = 70 to 25 or

Volume E = 35 to 15

Volume F = 25 to 2.

That is, compared to the 3-dim article being in a gel state, the 3-dim article in an aerogel state typically shows volume shrinkage in the range of 0 to 50%.

Compared to the 3-dim article being in a gel state, the 3-dim article in a pre-sintered state typically shows volume shrinkage in the range of 25 to 75%. Compared to the 3-dim article being in a gel state, the 3-dim article in a sintered state typically shows volume shrinkage in the range of 75 to 98%.

According to one embodiment, the relationship of the individual volumes is as follows, for Volume F being scaled to 100:

Volume A (gel body) = 850 to 1250 or 900 to 1100. Volume B = 850 to 1250 or 900 to 1100.

Volume C (aerogel body) = 600 to 900 or 650 to 850

Volume D = 250 to 700 or 300 to 600

Volume E (pre-sintered) = 140 to 360 or 150 to 250

Volume F (fully sintered) = 100. According to one embodiment, Volume A of the 3-dim article being in a gel state is more than 200% or more than 300% or more than 500% or more than 800% or more than 900%) of Volume F of the ceramic article being in its sintered state. Processing the printing sol to obtain a 3 -dim article with a volume being much larger than the volume of the ceramic article after sintering facilitates the production of ceramic articles with high accuracy and surface smoothness.

The larger the enlargement factor for producing the 3-dim article in a gel state is, the smaller the surface defects on the ceramic article after sintering will be.

Visible surface defects which may occur during the additive manufacturing process and which may be caused by limited resolution of the manufacturing equipment, will shrink during the sintering process by the enlargement factor chosen.

However, the enlargement factor cannot be chosen freely as the 3-dim article obtained after the additive manufacturing process needs to be free-standing. That is, the 3- dim article needs to have a sufficient consistency and stability allowing it to be removed from the additive manufacturing equipment without distortion or destruction.

It was found that the printing sol described in the present text facilitates the production of 3-dim articles in a gel state by applying additive manufacturing techniques, wherein the 3-dim articles can be sintered to ceramic articles without cracks afterwards and robust mechanical properties.

The printing sol typically contains a sufficient high amount of nano-sized particles to produce a free-standing 3-dim article in a gel state, even if the volume of the 3-dim article in the gel state is enlarged by at least 200% or more compared to the volume of the final ceramic article in its sintered state.

However, the amount of zirconia particles is sufficiently low to produce a 3-dim article in its gel state, which can be sintered afterwards without cracks. That is because the pore volume and pore size will be large enough for the organic components to be burnt out.

Increasing the volume content of the zirconia particles would facilitate the production of an enlarged free-standing 3-dim article in its gel state. However, such a 3-dim article cannot be sintered to its desired size and shape without cracks. The content of the zirconia particles will be too high.

If on the other hand, the content of the zirconia particles is lowered too much, producing an enlarged free-standing 3-dim article in its gel state will not be possible. The amount of isotropic linear shrinkage between the shaped gel article and the sintered article is often in a range of 40 to 70 % or in a range of 45 to 55 %. The amount of isotropic volume shrinkage is often in a range of 75 to 98 %, 80 to 95 %, or 85 to 95 %.

These large amounts of isotropic shrinkage result from the relatively low amount of zirconia-based particles (2 to 25 vol.-%) included in the printing sol used to form the gel composition (printed gel article).

Conventional teaching has been that high volume fractions of inorganic oxides are needed to obtain highly dense sintered articles.

Surprisingly, it was found that gel compositions that are sufficiently strong can be obtained from printing sols with a relatively low amount of the zirconia-based particles using additive manufacturing techniques including stereolithographic processing (even for intricate and complex shapes), dried, heated to burnout organic matter, and sintered without cracking.

It is also surprising that the shape of the sintered articles can match that of the printed gel article and the digital file so well in spite of the large percent shrinkage. The large percent shrinkage can be an advantage for some applications. For example, it allows the manufacture of smaller parts than cannot be obtained with many other ceramic printing or molding processes.

The reaction mixture (printing sol) is typically selectively exposed to ultraviolet and/or visible radiation to form each new layer of the build. The polymerizable material within the printing sol undergoes free radical polymerization.

Because the radically polymerizable surface modification agent for the zirconia- based particles within the printing sol interacts with the surface of the zirconia-based particles, polymerization results in the formation of a three-dimensional gel composition that binds together zirconia-based particles. This usually leads to a strong and resilient green body gel composition. This also can lead to homogeneous gel compositions with small pore sizes that can be sintered at relatively low temperatures.

The green body gel composition is formed e.g. within a commercially available stereolithography machine. The stereolithography machine includes a light source for photopolymerization, a build tray or vat to hold the unpolymerized reaction mixture (printing sol), and a build platform where the green body gel composition is formed layer by layer into the shape of a digital file input. The green body gel composition includes a polymerized product of the reaction mixture.

In typical operation, the build platform is moved with a mechanical stage driven by the provided software in such a manner that allows for the amount of printing sol defined by the input variable 'slice thickness' to flow between the previously printed layer (or build platform in the case of the first layer) and the light source.

Once the layer of unpolymerized printing sol is in place, the light source is selectively applied to provide a patterned energy dose, resulting in selective polymerization of the printing sol according to the digital file input. The sequential polymerization of layers is repeated until a green body gel composition in a final shape representative of the digital file input is realized. Printing sol that was not exposed selectively to the light source remains primarily unpolymerized.

According to one embodiment, in the process of producing a ceramic article as described in the present text, the processing step comprises the steps of

• forming a layer or part thereof from the construction material on a surface,

• at least partially radiation curing the layer or part thereof,

• forming an additional layer or part thereof in contact with the radiation cured or partially cured surface of the previous layer,

· repeating the previous steps until a 3-dim article is obtained.

Further details of such a processing step are described in US 4,575,330 (Hull), US 6,283,997 (Garg et al.) or US 8,003,040 B2 (El-Siblani). The content of these documents is herewith incorporated by reference.

The processing of the printing sol can be done by using or applying at least one or more of the following parameters:

• Slice thickness of printing sol exposed to radiation: 0.001 to 0.500 mm or 0.01 to 0.4 mm;

• Energy dose per layer in the range of 5 mJ/cm 2 to 100 mJ/cm 2 or 8 mJ/cm 2 to 50 mJ/cm 2 . The printing sol containing the nano-sized zirconia particles is solidified by gelation.

Preferably, the gelation process allows green body gels of any desired size to be formed without cracks and green body gels that can be further processed without inducing cracks. For example, preferably, the gelation process leads to a green body gel having a structure that will not collapse when the solvent is removed; so-called "free-standing gel". The green body gel structure is compatible with and stable in a variety of solvents and conditions that may be necessary for supercritical extraction. Furthermore, the gel structure should be compatible with supercritical extraction fluids (e.g., supercritical CO2). In other words, the gels should be stable and strong enough to withstand drying, so as to produce stable aerogels or xerogels that can be heated to burn out the organics, pre-sintered, and densified without inducing cracks. Preferably, the resulting aerogels or xerogels have relatively small and uniform pore sizes to aid in sintering them to high density at low sintering temperatures. However, preferably the pores of the aerogels or xerogels are large enough to allow product gases of organic burnout to escape without leading to cracking of the aerogel or xerogel. It is believed that the rapid nature of the gelation step results in an essentially homogeneous distribution of the zirconia-based particles throughout the gel, which can aid in the subsequent processing steps such as supercritical extraction, organic burnout, and sintering. It is preferable that the gel contain the minimum amount of organic material or polymer modifiers. After processing the printing sol to form a green body gel, the 3-dim article in its gel-state is typically removed from the device used for conducting the additive manufacturing process.

If desired, the surface of the 3-dim article in its gel-state is cleaned, e.g. by rinsing the 3-dim article with a solvent or soaking in a solvent. Suitable solvents preferably include mixtures thereof or the same solvent(s) used in the sol described above.

If desired, the 3-dim article in it gel-state is post-cured by applying radiation or a heat treatment.

Such a step may help to improve the stability and maintain the resolution of the 3- dim article in its gel-state. If applied, the post-curing step can be characterized by at least one, or all of the following features:

• Applying radiation with wavelength from 200 to 500 or from 350 to 450 nm;

• Applying a heating step with a temperature below the temperature at which drying will occur or which is used for debindering or calcining; e.g. from 30 tol 10 or from 40 to 75

°C.

The process of producing the ceramic article described in the present text typically also comprises a drying step to remove any organic solvents or water that may be present, transferring the 3-dim article being in a gel state to a 3-dim article being in a dry state. This can be referred to as drying the green gel body or the printed gel article regardless of the method used to remove the organic solvent.

In some embodiments, removal of the organic solvent occurs by drying the printed gel article at room temperature (e.g., 20°C to 25°C) or at an elevated temperature. Any desired drying temperature up to 200°C can be used. If the drying temperature is higher, the rate of organic solvent removal may be too rapid and cracking can result. A xerogel results from this process of organic solvent removal.

Forming a xerogel can be used for drying printed gel articles with any dimensions, but is most frequently used for the preparation of relatively small sintered articles. As the gel composition dries, either at room temperature or at elevated temperatures, the density of the structure increases. Capillary forces pull the structure together resulting in some linear shrinkage such as up to about 30 %, up to 25 % or up to 20 %. The shrinkage is typically dependent on the amount of inorganic oxide present and the overall composition. The linear shrinkage is often in a range of 5 to 30 %, 10 to 25 %, or 5 to 15 %. Because the drying typically occurs most rapidly at the outer surfaces, density gradients are often established throughout the structure. Density gradients can lead to the formation of cracks. The likelihood of crack formation increases with the size and the complexity of the printed gel article and with the complexity of the structure. In some embodiments, xerogels are used to prepare sintered bodies having a longest dimension no greater than about 1 centimeter.

In some embodiments, the xerogels contain some residual organic solvent. The residual solvent can be up to 6 wt.-% based on the total weight of the xerogel. For example, the xerogel can contain up to 5 wt.-%, up to 4 wt.-%, up to 3 wt.-%, up to 2 wt.-%, or up to 1 wt.-% organic solvent.

If the printed gel article has fine features that can be easily broken or cracked, it is often preferable to form an aerogel intermediate rather than a xerogel. A printed gel article of any size and complexity can be dried to an aerogel. An aerogel can be formed by drying the printed gel article, preferably under supercritical conditions. There is no capillary effect for this type of drying, and the linear shrinkage is often in a range of 0 to 25 %, 0 to 20 %,

0 to 15 %, 5 to 15 %, or 0 to 10 %. The density typically remains uniform throughout the structure. If applied, the supercritical drying step can be characterized by at least one, more or all of the following features:

a) Temperature: 20 to 100°C or 30 to 80°C or 15 to 150°C ;

b) Pressure: 5 to 200 MPa or 10 to 100 MPa or 1 to 20 MPa or 5 to 15 MPa;

c) Duration: 2 to 175 h or 5 to 25 h or 1 to 5 h;

d) Extraction or drying medium: carbon dioxide in its supercritical stage,

A combination of features (a), (b) and (c) is sometimes preferred.

Supercritical extraction can remove all or most of the organic solvent in the printed gel article. In some embodiments, the aerogels contain some residual organic solvent. The residual solvent can be up to 6 wt.-% based on the total weight of the aerogel. For example, the aerogel can contain up to 5 wt.-%, up to 4 wt.-%, up to 3 wt.-%, up to 2 wt.-%, or up to

1 wt.-% organic solvent.

The removal of organic solvent results in the formation of pores within the dried structure. Preferably, the pores are sufficiently large to allow gases from the decomposition products of the polymeric material to escape without cracking the structure when the dried structure is further heated to burnout the organic material and to form a sintered article.

The article obtained after having conducted the supercritical drying step can typically be characterized by at least one or more of the following properties:

• showing a N2 adsorption and/or desorption isotherm with a hysteresis loop;

• showing a N2 adsorption and desorption of isotherm type IV according to IUPAC classification and a hysteresis loop; • showing a N2 adsorption and desorption isotherm of type IV with a hysteresis loop of type HI according to IUPAC classification;

• showing a N2 adsorption and desorption isotherm of type IV with a hysteresis loop of type HI according to IUPAC classification in a p/ρθ range of 0.70 to 0.99;

· BET surface: from 120 to 200 m 2 /g or from 130 to 190 m 2 /g.

The heating step is conducted to remove organic material present in the 3-dim article before final sintering. Removing organic material before sintering reduces the risk of cracks during sintering.

Such a heating step is sometimes also referred to as de-bindering or calcining step. The heating step is typically conducted at a temperature below 800 °C or below 700 or below 600 °C. A typical temperature range is from 400 to 800 °C or from 500 to 700 °C.

The heating step is typically conducted for a time needed to combust the organic components in the 3-dim article.

A typical time frame is from 5 to 100 h or from 10 to 50 h. The heating is typically conducted at ambient conditions (i.e. ambient air, ambient pressure).

The body obtained after a de-bindering or calcining step can be further treated with heat to obtain a pre-sintered article.

A per-sintering step is only necessary if a non-colored sol composition is used and the dental article should be colored.

Such a pre-sintered article is porous and can be colored using commercially available coloring liquids. If either no coloring is desired or if the article is already colored, a pre- sintering step can be omitted.

The pre-sintered article can typically be characterized by the following properties: · density: from 40 to 60% of theoretical density;

• average connected pore diameter: from 2 to 100 nm or from 2 to 80 nm or from 4 to 50nm or from 4 to 30 nm or from 4 to 25 nm;

• showing a N2 adsorption and/or desorption isotherm with a hysteresis loop; • showing a N2 adsorption and desorption of isotherm type IV according to IUPAC classification and a hysteresis loop;

• showing a N2 adsorption and desorption isotherm of type IV with a hysteresis loop of type HI according to IUPAC classification;

· showing a N2 adsorption and desorption isotherm of type IV with a hysteresis loop of type HI according to IUPAC classification in a p/ρθ range of 0.70 to 0.99;

• BET surface: from 15 to 100 m 2 /g or from 16 to 60 m 2 /g or from 16 to 30 m 2 /g.

The conditions to be applied for conducting a pre-sintering step can be described as follows:

· temperature: from 800 to 1100 °C or from 950 to 1090 °C or from 975 to 1080 °C;

• atmosphere: air or inert gas (e.g. nitrogen, argon);

• duration: until a density of 40 to 60 % of the final density of the material has been reached.

The pre-sintered article optionally can be soaked in a basic solution such as an aqueous solution of ammonium hydroxide. Soaking can be effective to remove undesirable ionic species such as sulfate ions because of the porous nature of the articles at this stage of the process. Sulfate ions can ion exchange with hydroxyl ions. If sulfate ions are not removed, they can generate small pores in the sintered articles that tend to reduce the translucency and/or the strength. More specifically, the ion exchange process often includes soaking the article that has been heated to remove organic material in an aqueous solution of 1 N ammonium hydroxide. This soaking step is often for at least 8 hours, at least 16 hours, or at least 24 hours. After soaking, the article is removed from the ammonium hydroxide solution and washed thoroughly with water. The article can be soaked in water for any desired period of time such as at least 30 min, at least 1 hour, at least 2 hours, or at least 4 hours. The soaking in water can be repeated several times, if desired, by replacing the water with fresh water.

After soaking, the article is typically dried in an oven to remove the water. For example, the article can be dried by heating in an oven set at a temperature equal to at least 80°C, at least 90°C, or at least 100°C. For example, the temperature can be in a range of 80°C to 150°C, 90°C to 150°C, or 90°C to 125°C for at least 30 min, at least 60 min, or at least 120 min. If desired, at least parts of the surface of the 3-dim article being in an absorbent stage can be coloured. Colouring can be effected by using colouring solutions.

A suitable colouring solution typically contains solvent and certain ions.

The solvent is able to dissolve the ion(s) contained in the treatment solution. If desired, mixtures of different solvents can be used.

Suitable solvents include water, alcohols (especially low-boiling alcohols, e.g. with a boiling point below about 100°C) and ketones. Specific examples of solvents which can be used for dissolving the cations of the non-colouring agent include water, methanol, ethanol, iso-propanol, n-propanol, butanol, acetone, and mixtures thereof. The solvent is typically present in an amount from 50 to 99.9 wt.-% or from 60 to

99 wt.-% or from 75 to 95 wt.-%, wt.-% with respect to the whole colouring solution.

The colouring solution has typically an adequate viscosity so that a sufficient amount of solution can not only be applied to the surface of the porous zirconia article but also is able to migrate into the pores of the zirconia article. Adjusting the viscosity to a value as indicated above can be beneficial in that the solution can be more accurately applied to particular sections or regions of the porous dental zirconia article obtained after presintering the printed ceramic article.

If the viscosity of the colouring solution is too high, the colouring solution might not be able to sufficiently enter the pores of the zirconia material. On the other hand, if the viscosity of the colouring solution is too low, the colouring solution might migrate into the pores too rapidly and might diffuse into the whole article.

According to one embodiment, the colouring solution comprises coloring ions selected from ions of Fe, Mn, Er, Pr, Tb, V, Cr, Co, Mo and mixtures thereof. These ions were found to be particularly useful. The solution may also contain phase stabilizers including ions of Y, Ce, Mg, Ca, rare earth elements and mixtures thereof. The addition of phase stabilizers may further facilitate the stabilization of a certain crystalline phase (e.g. cubic or tetragonal phase) of the zirconia components present in the ceramic article. The solution may also contain one or more complexing agent(s). The complexing agent(s) may support the penetration of the coloring solution.

The colouring solution can be applied to the surface of the 3 -dim article with the help of application devices including brushes, sponges, (hollow) needles, pens, mixing appliances and combinations thereof.

However, the colouring solution can also be added to the sol for use in the additive manufacturing process as described in the present text before the sol is processed. In this case, the obtained article is already coloured.

A sintering step is finally carried out to obtain a ceramic article having a density of at least 98.5 or at least 99.5 or at least 99.9 % of the theoretical density.

Sintering of the 3-dim article is typically carried out under the following conditions:

• temperature: from 1150 to 1500 °C or from 1200 to 1400 °C or from 1250 to 1350 °C or from 1200 to 1400° or from above 1300 to 1400°C or above 1320°C to 1400°C or above 1340°C or above 1350°C;

· atmosphere: air or inert gas (e.g. nitrogen, argon);

• pressure: ambient pressure;

• duration: until a density of about 98.5 to about 100 % of the final density of the material has been reached.

Properties of the sintered ceramic article are described in the present text further down below.

The invention is also directed to a ceramic article obtained or obtainable by such a process. According to one embodiment, the ceramic article is a dental or orthodontic ceramic article.

In certain embodiments the ceramic article can be characterized by at least one or more, sometimes all of the following parameters:

• density: at least about 98.5 (in some embodiments, 99, 99.5, 99.9, or even at least 99.99) percent of theoretical density;

• Vickers hardness: from 450 MPa to 2,200 MPa, or from 500 MPa to 1,800 MPa.HV(2);

• phase content tetragonal phase: from 0 to 100 wt.-% or from 10 to 100 wt.-%; cubic phase: from 0 to 100 wt.-% or from 50 to 90 wt.-%; • flexural strength: from 450 MPa to 2,200 MPa, or from 500 MPa to 2,000 MPa; according to ISO 6872;

• translucency: more than 30% determined on a polished sample having a thickness of 1 mm;

· at least one of the x, y, z dimensions being at least 0.25 or at least 1 mm.

The average grain size is often in a range of 75 nm to 400 nm or in a range of 100 nm to 400 nm. The grain size is typically no greater than 400 nm, no greater than 350 nm, no greater than 300 nm, no greater than 250 nm, no greater than 200 nm, or no greater than 150 nm. It is assumed that this grain size contributes to the high strength of the sintered articles.

The ceramic article obtainable or obtained according to the process described in the present text often shows a laminated structure, if cut in longitudinal direction. Longitudinal direction means the direction according to which the additive manufacturing process took place.

In certain embodiments the ceramic article can be characterized by at least one or more, sometimes all of the following features:

• ZrC-2 content: from 70 to 100 mol-% or from 80 to 97 mol-%;

• Hf02 content: from 0 to 4.5 mol-% or from 0 to 3 mol-% or from 0.1 to 2.8 mol-%;

• Stabilizer selected from Y2O3, Ce0 2 , MgO, CaO, La 2 0 3 or a combination thereof in an amount from 0 to 30 mol-% or from 1.5 to 20 mol-% or from 2 to 10 mol-% or 2 to 5 mol-%;

• AI2O3 content: from 0 to 1 mol-% or from 0.005 to 0.5 mol-% or from 0.01 to 0.2 mol-

%;

• optionally comprising oxides of elements selected from Er, Tb, Mn, Bi, Nd, Fe, Pr, Co, Cr, V, Cu, Eu, Sm, Dy, Tb, preferably Fe, Mn, Er, Pr, Tb and combinations thereof.

The ceramic article may have different shapes.

According to one embodiment, the ceramic article has the shape of a dental ceramic article, in particular the shape of a dental restoration (including the shape of a dental crown, bridge, inlay, onlay, veneer, implant) or orthodontic bracket. The invention described in the present text is also directed to the following embodiments:

Embodiment OD1 :

Use of a printing sol as construction material in an additive manufacturing process for producing a 3 -dimensional article, the sol comprising

• solvent(s),

• nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles in an amount from 20 to 70 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol, the average primary particle size of the nano-sized crystalline zirconia particles being in a range from 2 to 50 nm,

• radiation curable component(s),

• photo initiator(s),

• organic dye(s),

the printing sol having a viscosity of less than 500 mPa*s at 23°C.

Embodiment OD2:

The use according to the preceding embodiment, the printing sol being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

• being translucent in a wavelength range from 420 to 600 nm;

• showing a transmission of at least 5% at 420 nm determined for a path length of 10 mm;

• pH value: from 1 to 6, if bought in contact with water. Embodiment OD3 :

The use according to any of the preceding embodiments, the organic dye being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

• being present in an amount from 0.001 to 0.2 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol;

• radiation absorption: within a range from 200 to 500;

• having a molecular weight in the range of 50 to 1,000 g/mol;

• being soluble in the solvent;

• being combustible without residues at a temperature below 800°C; • not containing heavy metal ions with an atomic mass above 40 or above 45. Embodiment OD4:

The use according to any of the preceding embodiments, the nano-sized zirconia particles being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

• being spherical, cuboidal or a mixture thereof;

• being non-associated;

• comprising Zr0 2 in an amount of 70 to 100 mol-% with respect to the weight of the nano-sized particles;

· comprising a stabilizer selected from Y 2 Cb, Ce0 2 , MgO, CaO, La 2 Cb or a combination thereof in an amount of 0 to 30 mol-%, preferably Y 2 0 3 .

Embodiment OD5:

The use according to any of the preceding embodiments, the photo initiator being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

• being present in an amount from 0.01 to 3 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol;

• showing radiation absorbance in the range from 200 to 500 nm;

• being combustible without residues at a temperature below 800°C;

· comprising a moiety selected from benzophenone, xanthone, quinone, benzoin ether, acetophenon, benzoyl oxime or acyl phosphine.

Embodiment OD6:

The use according to any of the preceding embodiments, the solvent being characterized by at least one or all of the following features:

• having a boiling point above 70°C or above 150°C;

• having a molecular weight from 25 to 250 g/mol;

• having a viscosity from 0.1 to 50 mPa*s at 23°C;

• the solvent being present in an amount from 25 to 70 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol. Embodiment OD7:

The use according to any of the preceding embodiments, the radiation curable component(s) being characterized by at least one of the following features:

• being selected from (meth)acrylate-based monomers, styrene-based monomers, and mixtures thereof;

• being present in an amount from 2 to 30 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol.

Embodiment OD8:

The use according to any of the preceding embodiments, the sol comprising in addition inhibitor(s), preferably in an amount from 0.001 to 0.5 wt.-% with respect to the weight of the sol.

The printing sol described in the Embodiments OD1 to OD8 can be produced and processed in the same manner as described for the other printing sols of the present text.

The invention also relates to a process of producing a 3-dim article, the process comprising the step of processing a printing sol as described in the present text by using or applying an additive manufacturing technique as described in the present text.

The invention is also directed to a zirconia gel body obtainable or obtained according to the process described in the present text, the zirconia gel body being preferably a zirconia aerogel body or zirconia xerogel body. All components used in the dental composition of the invention should be sufficiently biocompatible, that is, the composition should not produce a toxic, injurious, or immunological response in living tissue.

The production of the ceramic article typically does not require the application of a hot isostatic pressing step (HIP). According to one embodiment, the process for producing the ceramic article as described in the present text does not comprise either or all of the following steps.

• heating the construction material during the processing step to a temperature above 70

°C;

• applying pressure during the sintering process. The complete disclosures of the patents, patent documents, and publications cited herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety as if each were individually incorporated. Various modifications and alterations to this invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of this invention. The above specification, examples and data provide a description of the manufacture and use of the compositions and methods of the invention. The invention is not limited to the embodiments disclosed herein. One skilled in the art will appreciate that many alternative embodiments of the invention can be made without departing from the spirit and scope thereof.

The following examples are given to illustrate, but not limit, the scope of this invention.

Examples

Unless otherwise indicated, all parts and percentages are on a weight basis, all water is de-ionized water, and all molecular weights are weight average molecular weight. Moreover, unless otherwise indicated all experiments were conducted at ambient conditions (23 °C; 1013 mbar).

The following examples are given to illustrate, but not limit, the scope of this invention.

Materials

Yttrium acetate Yttrium (III) acetate tetrahydrate (oxide content 33.4 wt.

%).

Lanthanum Acetate Lathanum (III) acetate hydrate (oxide content 45.5 wt. %)

DI water De-ionized water.

HEM A 2-Hydroxyethyl methacrylate

"Irgacure 819" UV/Visible photoinitiator from BASF Co oration

Vandalia, IL, USA.

"SR454" Ethoxylated trimethylolpropane triacrylate, obtained from

Sartomer Company Inc., Exton, PA, USA.

DMF N, N-Dimethylformamide

"SR506A" Isobornyl acrylate obtained from Sartomer Company Inc.,

Exton, PA, USA.

"SR238B" 1, 6-Hexanediol diacrylate obtained from Sartomer

Company Inc., Exton, PA, USA.

"SR295" Pentaerythritol tetraacrylate obtained from Sartomer

Company Inc., Exton, PA, USA.

"CN975" Hexafunctional urethane acrylate obtained from Sartomer

Company Inc., Exton, PA, USA.

HEAA N-(2 -Hydroxy ethyl) acrylamide

HEAS Mono-2-(Methacryloyloxy) ethyl succinate

B-CEA B eta-carb oxy ethyl aery 1 ate

4-Hydroxy-TEMPO 4-Hydroxy- 2,2,6,6-tetramethylpiperidin- 1 -oxyl

3 -(methacry 1 oy 1 oxy )- 3-(methacryloyloxy)-propyltrimethoxysilane

propyltrimethoxy-silane

Ammonium Hydroxide Ammonium Hydroxide (assay 28-30 wt. % as H 3 )

Methods

Method for Determining Total Pore Volume, Average connected Pore diameter and BET Surface Area

Total pore volume and average pore diameter were analyzed with the use of N2 sorption Isotherms and BET surface area analysis. Samples of around 0.3-0.5 grams were cut if necessary from larger samples in order to be inserted in to the straight tubes. All samples were degassed for more than 1 day at 100°C before analysis. The samples were then analyzed by adsorption and desorption of N2 gas with a Quantachrome Autosorb IQ (Quantachrome Instruments, Florida, USA) in a 12mm cell with no bulb and without a rod. Absorption data points are collected from 0.0003 to 0.995 P/P0 and desorption points collected from 0.995 to 0.05 P/P0. The analysis has been duplicated (or triplicated if repeatability was not ideal), and the averaged results reported. The specific surface area S was calculated by the BET method (Details 10 regarding calculation see Autosorb-1 Operating Manual Ver. 1.51 IV. Theory and Discussion; Quantachrome Instruments, Inc.). The total pore volume Viiq is derived from the amount of vapor adsorbed at a relative pressure close to unity (p/pO closest to 1), by assuming that the pores are then filled with liquid adsorbate (Details regarding calculation see Autosorb-1 Operating Manual Ver. 1.51 IV. Theory and Discussion; Quantachrome Instruments, Inc.). The average pore diameter

(d) is calculated from the surface area (S) and the total pore volume Vu q : d Total pore volume and average pore diameter are reported as determined by Nonlocal Density Functional Theory method.

Method for Measuring Archimedes Density

The density of the sintered material was measured by the Archimedes technique. The measurements were made on a precision balance (identified as "AE 160" from Mettler Instrument Corp., Hightstown, NJ, USA) using a density determination kit (identified as "ME 33360" from Mettler Instrument Corp., Hightstown, NJ). In this procedure the sample was first weighed in air (A), then immersed in water (B) and weighed. The water was distilled and deionized. One drop of a wetting agent (obtained under trade designation "TERGITOL-TMN-6" from Dow Chemical Co., Danbury, CT, USA) was added to 250 ml of water. The density was calculated using the formula p = (A/(A-B)) pO, where pO is the density of water. The relative density can be calculated by reference to the theoretical density (pt) of the material, prel = (p/pt)100.

Method for Measuring Flexural Strength of Ceramic Article

The flexural strength was determined according to ISO 6872 (2008). The test piece is printed and processed according to the invention in the shape of a flex bar with approximate dimensions of 1 mm x 4 mm x 12 mm. Both large faces of the flex bar were polished down to a surface finish from 15 micron grade diamond lapping film (668X Diamond Lapping Film PSA, 3M, St. Paul, MN) on a Beta, Grinder-Polisher (Buehler, Lake Bluff, IL), operating at 100 rpm and lubricated with water. Each of the 4 edges along the length of the flex bar were chamfered, meaning to create a bevel on the edges of the specimens along, to a 45 degree angle. A 3 -point beam bend test configuration with a span of 10.0mm was employed. The crosshead test speed was lmm/min. An Instron 5954 test frame (Instron Corporation, Canton, MA) was utilized. A minimum of 5 samples were measured to determine the average strength.

Method for Measuring Translucency of Ceramic Article

The translucency of the ceramic articles was evaluated with the following procedure.

The test piece is printed and processed as described in the present text in the shape of a disc with approximate dimensions of 1 ±0.03mm thick x 13 mm diameter. The parallel large faces of the disc were polished down to a surface finish from 15 micron grade diamond lapping film (668X Diamond Lapping Film PSA, 3M, St. Paul, MN) on a Beta, Grinder- Polisher (Buehler, Lake Bluff, IL), operating at 100 rpm and lubricated with water. The polished sample was measured with a spectrophotometer (X-Rite Color i7, Grand Rapids, USA) in remission using the contrast ratio method. Translucency is determined acording to Translucency = 1- RB/RW where RB= reflectance through a ceramic disc on a black substrate and RW= reflectance through the same disc on a white substrate. Higher values of translucency are indicative of greater transmission of light, and less opacity. A minimum of 5 samples were measured to determine the average translucency.

Method for Crystalline Structure and Size (XRD Analysis)

Dried zirconia samples were ground by hand using an agate mortar and pestle. A liberal amount of the sample was applied by spatula to a glass microscope slide on which a section of double-sided adhesive tape had been adhered. The sample was pressed into the adhesive on the tape by forcing the sample against the adhesive with the spatula blade.

Excess sample was removed by scraping the sample area with the edge of the spatula blade, leaving a thin layer of particles adhered to the adhesive. Loosely adhered materials remaining after the scraping were removed by forcefully tapping the microscope slide against a hard surface. In a similar manner, corundum (Linde 1.0 μπι alumina polishing powder, Lot Number C062, Union Carbide, Indianapolis, IN) was prepared and used to calibrate the X-ray diffractometer for instrumental broadening. X-ray diffraction scans were obtained using a Philips vertical diffractometer having a reflection geometry, copper Koc radiation, and a proportional detector registry of the scattered radiation. The diffractometer was fitted with variable incident beam slits, fixed diffracted beam slits, and a graphite diffracted beam monochromator. The survey scan was recorded from 25 to 55 degrees two theta (2Θ) using a step size of 0.04 degrees and a dwell time of 8 seconds. X-ray generator settings of 45 kV and 35 mA were used. Data for the corundum standard was collected on three separate areas of several individual corundum mounts. Likewise, data was collected on three separate areas of the thin layer sample mount.

The observed diffraction peaks were identified by comparison to reference diffraction patterns contained within the International Center for Diffraction Data (ICDD) powder diffraction database (sets 1-47, ICDD, Newton Square, PA, USA). The diffraction peaks for the samples were attributed to either cubic/tetragonal (C/T) or monoclinic (M) forms of zirconia. For zirconia-based particles, the (111) peak for the cubic phase and (101) peak for the tetragonal phase could not be separated so these phases were reported together. The amounts of each zirconia form were evaluated on a relative basis, and the form of zirconia having the most intense diffraction peak was assigned the relative intensity value of 100. The strongest line of the remaining crystalline zirconia form was scaled relative to the most intense line and given a value between 1 and 100.

Peak widths for the observed diffraction maxima due to corundum were measured by profile fitting. The relationship between mean corundum peak widths and corundum peak position (2Θ) was determined by fitting a polynomial to these data to produce a continuous function used to evaluate the instrumental breadth at any peak position within the corundum testing range. Peak widths for the observed diffraction maxima due to zirconia were measured by profile fitting the observed diffraction peaks. The following peak widths were evaluated depending on the zirconia phase found to be present:

Cubic/Tetragonal (C/T): (1 1 1)

Monoclinic (M): (-1 1 1), and (1 1 1)

A Pearson VII peak shape model with Kal and Koc2 wavelength components and linear background model were used for all measurements. Widths were calculated as the peak full width at half maximum (FWHM) having units of degrees. The profile fitting was accomplished by use of the capabilities of the JADE diffraction software suite. Sample peak widths were evaluated for the three separate data collections obtained for the same thin layer sample mount.

Sample peaks were corrected for instrumental broadening by interpolation of instrumental breadth values from corundum instrument calibration and corrected peak widths converted to units of radians. The Scherrer equation was used to calculate the primary crystal size.

Crystallite Size (D) = Κλ/β (cos Θ)

In the Scherrer equation, K is the form factor (here 0.9), λ is the wavelength (1.540598 A), β is the calculated peak width after correction for instrumental broadening (in radians), and Θ equals half the peak position (scattering angle), β is equal to [calculated peak FWHM - instrumental breadth] (converted to radians) where FWHM is full width at half maximum. The cubic/tetragonal (C/T) mean crystallite size was measured as the average of three measurements using (1 1 1) peak. That is,

C/T mean Crystallite Size = [D(l 1 1) area l + D(l 1 1) area 2 + D(l 1 1) area s] / 3.

The monoclinic (M) crystallite size was measured as the average of three measurements using the

(-1 1 1) peak and three measurements using the (1 1 l) peak.

M mean crystallite size = [D(-l 1 1) area 1 + D(-l 1 1) area 2 +

D(-l 1 1) area 3 + D(l 1 1) area 1 + D(l 1 I) area 2 + D(l 1 1) area 3] 1 6 The weighted average of the cubic/tetragonal (C/T) and monoclinic phases (M) were calculated.

Weighted average = [(% C/T)(C/T size) + (% M)(M size)]/100

In this equation, % C/T equals the percent crystallinity contributed by the cubic and tetragonal crystallite content of the ZrCh particles; C/T size equals the size of the cubic and tetragonal crystallites; % M equals the percent crystallinity contributed by the monoclinic crystallite content of the ZrCh particles; and M size equals the size of the monoclinic crystallites.

Method for Photon Correlation Spectroscopy (PCS)

Particle size measurements were made using a light scattering particle sizer equipped with a red laser having a 633 nm wavelength of light (obtained under the trade designation "ZETA SIZER - Nano Series, Model ZEN3600" from Malvern Instruments Inc., Westborough, MA). Each sample was analyzed in a one-centimeter square polystyrene sample cuvette. The sample cuvette was filled with about 1 gram of deionized water, and then a few drops (about 0.1 gram) of the zirconia-based sol were added. The composition (e.g., sample) within each sample cuvette was mixed by drawing the composition into a clean pipette and discharging the composition back into the sample cuvette several times. The sample cuvette was then placed in the instrument and equilibrated at 25°C. The instrument parameters were set as follows: dispersant refractive index 1.330, dispersant viscosity 0.8872 MPa-second, material refractive index 2.10, and material absorption value 0.10 units. The automatic size-measurement procedure was then run. The instrument automatically adjusted the laser-beam position and attenuator setting to obtain the best measurement of particle size.

The light scattering particle-sizer illuminated the sample with a laser and analyzed the intensity fluctuations of the light scattered from the particles at an angle of 173 degrees. The method of Photon Correlation Spectroscopy (PCS) was used by the instrument to calculate the particle size. PCS uses the fluctuating light intensity to measure Brownian motion of the particles in the liquid. The particle size is then calculated to be the diameter of sphere that moves at the measured speed.

The intensity of the light scattered by the particle is proportional to the sixth power of the particle diameter. The Z-average size or cumulant mean is a mean calculated from the intensity distribution and the calculation is based on assumptions that the particles are mono-modal, mono-disperse, and spherical. Related functions calculated from the fluctuating light intensity are the Intensity Distribution and its mean. The mean of the Intensity Distribution is calculated based on the assumption that the particles are spherical. Both the Z-average size and the Intensity Distribution mean are more sensitive to larger particles than smaller ones.

The Volume Distribution gives the percentage of the total volume of particles corresponding to particles in a given size range. The volume-average size is the size of a particle that corresponds to the mean of the Volume Distribution. Since the volume of a particle is proportional to the third power of the diameter, this distribution is less sensitive to larger particles than the Z-average size. Thus, the volume-average will typically be a smaller value than the Z-average size. Method for Determining Dispersion Index (DI)

The dispersion index is equal to the volume-average size measured using Photon Correlation Spectroscopy divided by the weighted average crystallite size measured by XRD. Method for Determining Polydispersity Index (PI)

The polydispersity index is a measure of the breadth of the particle size distribution and is calculated along with the Z-average size in the cumulants analysis of the intensity distribution using Photon Correlation Spectroscopy. For values of the polydispersity index of 0.1 and below, the breadth of the distribution is considered narrow. For values above 0.5, the breadth of the distribution is considered broad and it is unwise to rely on the Z-average size to fully characterize the particle size. Instead, one should characterize the particles using a distribution analysis such as the intensity or volume distribution. The calculations for the Z-average size and polydispersity index are defined in the ISO 13321 : 1996 E ("Particle size analysis—Photon correlation spectroscopy", International Organization for Standardization, Geneva, Switzerland).

Method for Determining pH- Value

If desired, the measurement of the pH-value can be achieved by means known by the person skilled in art. E.g. an instrument like Metrohm™ 826 can be used.

Method for Measuring Wt.-% Solids

The wt.-% solids can be determined by drying a sample weighing 3-6 grams at 120 ° C for 30 min. The percent solids can be calculated from the weight of the wet sample (i.e., weight before drying, weightwet) and the weight of the dry sample (i.e., weight after drying, weightdry) using the following equation: wt-% solids = 100 (weightdry) / weightwet.

Method for Measuring Oxide Content

The oxide content of a sol sample was determined by measuring the percent solids content as described in the "Method for Measuring Wt.-% Solids" then measuring the oxide content of those solids as described in this section.

The oxide content of a solid was measured via thermal gravimetric analysis (obtained under the trade designation "TGA Q500"from TA Instruments, New Castle, DE, USA). The solids (about 50 mg) were loaded into the TGA and the temperature was taken to 900°C. The oxide content of the solid was equal to the residual weight after heating to 900°C.

Method for Determining Vol.-% Oxide

The vol.-% oxide in a sol can be determined by first using a volumetric flask to measure the mass of a known volume of sol, which gives the sol density p s in grams/ml. Then, using the wt.-% oxide (measured as described above in "Method for Measuring Oxide Content"), the vol.-% oxide was calculated as: vol.-% oxide = (p s *wt.-% oxide)/(oxide density), where a value of 6.05 grams/ml was used for the oxide density.

Method for Determining Viscosity

The viscosity was measured using a Brookfield Cone and Plate Viscometer (Model

Number DV II available from Brookfield Engineering Laboratories, Middleboro, MA, USA). The measurements were obtained using spindle CPE-42. The instrument was calibrated with Brookfield Fluid I which gave a measured viscosity of 5.12 mPa*s (cp) at 192 1/sec (50 RPM). The compositions were placed in the measurement chamber. Measurements were made at 3-4 different RPM (revolutions per minute). The measured viscosity was not significantly affected by the shear rate. The shear rate was calculated as 3.84 multiplied by the RPM. The viscosity values reported are for the minimum shear rate where the torque was in range.

Method for Determining Light Transmission (% T)

The light transmission was measured using a Perkin Elmer Lambda 35 UV/VIS

Spectrometer (available from Perkin Elmer Inc., Waltham, MA, USA). The transmission was measured in a 10-mm quartz cuvette, with a water-filled 10-mm quartz cuvette as the reference. The aqueous Zr0 2 sols were measured at 1 and 10 weight % Zr0 2 .

Processing

Preparation of Sol-Sl

Sol-Sl had a composition of Zr0 2 (95.76 mole %) / Y 2 0 3 (4.24 mole %) in terms of inorganic oxides. A hydrothermal reactor was used for preparing the Sol-Sl . The hydrothermal reactor was prepared from 15 meters of stainless steel braided smooth tube hose (0.64 cm inside diameter, 0.17 cm thick wall; obtained under the trade designation "DuPont T62 CHEMFLUOR PTFE" from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, Beaverton,

MI). This tube was immersed in a bath of peanut oil heated to the desired temperature. Following the reactor tube, a coil of an additional 3 meters of stainless steel braided smooth tube hose ("DuPont T62 CHEMFLUOR PTFE"; 0.64 cm I D., 0.17 cm thick wall) plus 3 meters of 0.64 cm stainless-steel tubing with a diameter of 0.64 cm and wall thickness of 0.089 cm immersed in an ice-water bath to cool the material and a backpressure regulator valve was used to maintain an exit pressure of 3.45 MPa.

A precursor solution was prepared by combining the zirconium acetate solution (2,000 grams) with DI water (1,871.6 grams). Yttrium acetate (104.2 grams) was added while mixing until fully dissolved. The solids content of the resulting solution was measured gravimetrically (120°C/hour, forced air oven) to be 19.26 weight %. D.I. water (54.4 grams) was added to adjust the final concentration to 19 weight %. The resulting solution was pumped at a rate of 11.48 ml/minute through the hydrothermal reactor. The temperature was 225°C and the average residence time was 42 minutes. A clear and stable zirconia sol was obtained.

Preparation of Sol-S2 and Sol-S3

Sol-S2 and Sol-S3 were prepared in a similar manner to Sol-Sl, except that the composition and temperature were varied. The compositions and reaction temperatures for Sol-Sl to Sol-S3 are listed in Table 1, below.

Table 1.

The properties of Sol-Sl, Sol-S2, and Sol-S3 were determined using the methods described above.

Table 2, below, summarizes the PCS data such as Z- Average size (nm), Polydispersity Index (PI) and light transmission (% T) data for each of Sol-Sl to Sol-S3 (at 1 weight % and 10 weight %) at 600 nm and 420 nm. Table 2.

Table 3, below, summarizes the crystallite size and dispersion index (DI) data for each of Sol-Sl, Sol-S2, and Sol-S3 determined from XRD analysis and Photon Correlation Spectroscopy as described above.

Table 3.

N/D means not determined. Sol-Sl, Sol- S2, and Sol-S3 were further processed to increase their concentration, remove acetic acid or incorporate ethanol. A combination of one or more of ultrafiltration, diafiltration and distillation were used. The diafiltration and ultrafiltration were performed using a membrane cartridge (obtained under the trade designation "M2 I S- 100-0 IP" from Spectrum Laboratories Inc., Rancho Dominguez, CA). Distillation was performed using rotary evaporation.

Method for Filtration of Printing Sol

The sol was filtered using a 20-milliliter syringe and a 1.0-micron Glass Fiber Membrane filter (ACRODISC 25 mm Syringe filter, obtained from Pall Life Sciences, Ann Arbor, MI, USA). Stereolithography (SLA) Process

Stereolithography, also known as vat polymerization, optical fabrication, photo- solidification, solid free-form fabrication, or resin printing, is an additive manufacturing or 3-dim printing technology used to produce a 3-dim object directly from a 3-dim digital file. The process employs a vat of photocurable printing material and a compatible light source, where exposure of the light source solidifies the photocurable printing material. The process builds up a 3-dim part one layer at a time. First a thin layer of printing sol is realized through some mechanical operation. A digital light pattern is then projected or traced across the thin layer, selectively solidifying the photocurable printing material, before another thin layer of uncured sol is provided. This next layer of photocurable printing material is placed in contact with the previously cured layer so that as it is selectively cured, it solidifies in a manner that joins it with the previous layer. The process repeats itself several times over until the desired 3-dim object is realized.

For the examples explain herein, a Freeform Picoplus39 digital light projection printer from Asiga (Anaheim Hills, CA) was used to process the printing sol (final formulations described below), into a 3-dim green body gel, which is then further processed into a highly dense ceramic article. Before printing, an STL file of test shapes, e.g., flex bars, cylinders, and discs, or more complex 3-dim shapes such as orthodontic brackets or crowns, were loaded into the Asiga composer software. In many cases the shape was scaled by a factor of 2.2 in each of the x, y, and z directions so that the final 3-dim ceramic article would match the size of the original file after shrinkage. Next the parts were digitally placed on the build platform and selected process parameters were inputted. The process parameter 'slice thickness' determines the number of 2-dim slices that the 3-dim digital file is divided into and the thickness of each slice, which becomes a digitally printed layer. The 3-dim file was sliced with the included Asiga Composer software and digitally sent to the Freeform Picoplus39 printer.

Before printing the printer was wiped down with water, sprayed with a nitrogen stream to remove any remaining dust particles, and placed in a low dust environment with yellow light to prevent unwanted exposure of the photosensitive printing sol during processing. To as much as possible, before each print care was taken to clean the printer to ensure that the path of light not obstructed by dust or dried particles. Pico build trays from Asiga were used for all examples. The build trays function as a vat to hold the uncured printing sol during green body gel production. The bottom of the build tray is an optically transparent film that allows the 405nm blue LED light to be transmitted into the printing sol in order to selectively cure the printing sol into the shape of the pattern generated by the digital light projector, based off the inputted print file.

An Asiga build tray was cleaned with isopropanol and a 3M microfiber lens cleaning cloth, blown dry with nitrogen, and immediately loaded with around lOOmL of printing sol, freshly filtered as described above. The Asiga build platform was scraped clean with a metal spatula and cleaned with isopropanol and a lint free wipe. The selected print was chosen and the printer began production of the 3 -dim green body gel from the printing sol.

The Freeform Picoplus39 printer operates in such a way that the build platform is lowered into the build tray previously filled with filtered printing sol to a programmed z- position. This z-position allows for the thickness of the printing sol between the build platform and the bottom of the optically transparent build tray to be close to the 'slice thickness' setting. The build platform is moved to this position at the speed of the 'approach velocity' setting. Once in position, a slider moves beneath the transparent film making up the bottom of the build tray to facilitate spreading of the uncured sol into this gap as well as to assist in bubble removal. The slider will move at the speed of 'slide velocity' for the number of times inputted in ' slides/layer' . After the slider is done, the digital light proj ector illuminates select pixels to selectively solidify a pattern of the layer of uncured sol located in the gap between the last cured layer and the transparent film of the bottom of the build tray. The digital light projector will deliver the set amount of 'power' for the 'normal exposure time'. For the very beginning of the build, layers are often exposed to light for an increased amount of time to achieve good adhesion of the first cured layers to the build platform. The 'burn in layer' settings determine how many layers are over exposed and how long that exposure time will be. After the energy dose of light has been delivered, the build platform will move away from the transparent film on the bottom of the build tray at a speed of ' separation velocity' to a distance of 'separation distance' .

Here the newly cured layer will be adhered to both the transparent film at the bottom of the build tray and the layer most recently cured (or the build platform in the case of the first layer). For a successful three-dimensional shape to be realized, the adhesion between layers must be greater than the adhesion with the transparent film so that as the build platform is raised the newly cured layer is securely joined to the growing object. As the build platform and solidified layers are raised up, fresh printing sol is allowed to flow into the void created and the build platform is again lowered to repeat the process. All examples are performed at room temperature.

For all examples presented the parameter settings shown in Table 4 were applied.

Table 4.

The energy doses delivered to solidify the printing sol are optimized for each printing sol based on the LED power and 'normal exposure time' . Alternatively, photoinitiator, inhibitor, or organic dye content as well as slice thickness could be optimized to best match the depth of cure with the selected slice thickness. Due to the high optical transmission of the printing sols described, much larger layer (slice) thicknesses are feasible with the appropriate mechanical stage operation.

Alternatively, due to the nanoscale size of particles and lack of agglomerates or aggregation within the printing sol, a nanoscale layer thickness could also be applied for the fabrication of a green body gel with the appropriate resolution and performance of the mechanical actuation of a printer.

After the formation of the desired 3 -dim green body gel, the build platform was removed from the printer and the green body gels were exposed to excess solvent to remove any uncured printing sol from the surface of the part. The green body gels were then removed from the build platform with a scraping or cutting tool. The green body gels were removed shortly after the printing process finished and then stored in a sealed container to minimize the potential for solvent evaporation. The green body gels were stored in the sealed containers until further processing (4 hours up to 3 weeks). Method for Super Critical Extraction of Gels

The supercritical extraction was performed using a 10-L laboratory-scale supercritical fluid extractor unit designed by and obtained from Thar Process, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Sufficient ethanol was added to the 10-L extractor vessel to cover the gels (about 3500-6500 ml). The wet zirconia-based gels were loaded into the 10-L extractor so that the wet gels were completely immersed in the liquid ethanol inside the jacketed extractor vessel, which was heated and maintained at 60°C. After the extractor vessel lid was sealed in place, liquid carbon dioxide was pumped by a chilled piston pump (set point: -8.0°C) through a heat exchanger to heat the CO2 to 60°C and into the 10-L extractor vessel until an internal pressure of 13.3 MPa was reached. At these conditions, carbon dioxide is supercritical. Once the extractor operating conditions of 13.3 MPa and 60°C were met, a needle valve regulated the pressure inside the extractor vessel by opening and closing to allow the extractor effluent to pass through a porous 316L stainless steel frit (obtained from Mott Corporation, New Britain, CT, USA as Model # 1100S-5.480 DIA-.062-10-A), then through a heat exchanger to cool the effluent to 30°C, and finally into a 5-L cyclone separator vessel that was maintained at room temperature and a pressure less than 5.5 MPa, where the extracted ethanol and gas-phase CO2 were separated and collected throughout the extraction cycle for recycling and reuse. Supercritical carbon dioxide (scCCh) was pumped continuously through the 10-L extractor vessel for 7 hours from the time the operating conditions were achieved. After the 7-hour extraction cycle, the extractor vessel was slowly vented into the cyclone separator over 16 hours from 13.3 MPa to atmospheric pressure at 60°C before the lid was opened and the dried aerogels were removed.

Method for Burnout and Pre-sinter - Procedure A

The dried gel body was placed on a bed of zirconia beads in an alumina crucible. The crucible was covered with alumina fiberboard and was then fired in air according to the following schedule:

1- Heat from 20°C to 220°C at 18°C/hour rate,

2- Heat from 220°C to 244°C at l°C/hour rate,

3- Heat from 244°C to 400°C at 6°C/hour rate,

4- Heat from 400°C to 1020°C at 60°C/hour rate,

5- Cool from 1020°C to 20°C at 120°C/hour rate. Method for Burnout and Pre-sinter - Procedure B

The dried gel body was placed on a bed of zirconia beads in an alumina crucible. The crucible was covered with alumina fiberboard and was fired in air according to the following schedule:

1 - Heat from 20°C to 190°C at 18°C/hour rate,

2- Heat from 190°C to 250°C at l°C/hour rate,

3- Heat from 250°C to 400°C at 6°C/hour rate,

4- Heat from 400°C to 1020°C at 60°C/hour rate,

5- Cool from 1020°C to 20°C at 120°C/hour rate. Method for Ion Exchange

The pre-sintered body was ion exchanged by first placing it in a 118 ml glass jar containing 1.ON NH4OH at a depth of about 2.5 cm. It was then soaked overnight for at least 16 hours. The NH4OH was then poured off and the jar was filled with distilled water. The body was soaked in the distilled water for 1 hour. The water was then replaced with fresh distilled water. This step was repeated until the pH of the soak water was equal to that of fresh distilled water. The body was then dried at 90-125°C for a minimum of 1 hour.

Method for Sintering

The pre-sintered, ion exchanged body was placed on a bed of zirconia beads in an alumina crucible. The crucible was covered with alumina fiberboard and the sample was then sintered in air according to the following schedule:

1- Heat from 20°C to 1020°C at 600°C/hour rate,

2- Heat from 1020°C to 1340°C at 120°C/hour rate,

3- Hold at 1340°C for 2 hours,

4- Cool down from 1340°C to 20°C at 600°C/hour rate.

Example 1.

Printing Sol Preparation Procedure

For Example 1, Sol-Sl was concentrated to a composition of 45.91 weight % oxide and 6.62 weight % acetic acid. To prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-Sl (502.25 grams), MEEAA (2-[2-(2-methoxyethoxy)ethoxy]acetic acid) (8.22 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (123.80 grams) were charged to a 1000 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced by 252.34 grams via rotary evaporation. The resulting sol (161.35 grams) was charged to a 250 ml RB flask and combined with di ethylene glycol monoethyl ether (54.06 grams), acrylic acid (10.53 grams), and ethoxylated trimethylolpropane triacrylate ("SR454") (18.53 grams). The sol was passed through a 1- μπι filter. Some of this sol (100.9 grams) was placed into an amber bottle, where Irgacure™ 819 (0.5045 gram) and butylhydroxytoluene ("BHT") (0.10 gram) were added. The bottle was placed on a bottle roller to mix. The sol was passed through a 1-μπι filter before use. The approximate viscosity of the printing sol was 25 mPa*s at 15.36 1/sec. The final sol composition was as follows:

Stereolithography (SLA) Process

The SLA process described above was applied where each slice of the printing sol was cured with an LED power of 18.4 mW/cm 2 and a normal exposure time of 0.93 seconds.

The resulting 3-dim green body gels showed high fidelity to the inputted digital file and good resolution as needed for the realization of complex ceramic articles such as dental crowns or orthodontic brackets. The obtained 3-dim green body gel samples are shown in

Fig. 1 and Fig. 2. The green body gels also had sufficient mechanical robustness for further processing.

The shaped green body gels were dried using super critical extraction, as described above. The resulting aerogels were crack-free and had a total pore volume of 0.384 cc/g and average pore diameter of 13.9 nm based on BET analysis.

The resulting aerogels were burned out and pre-sintered according to Procedure B. The resulting pre-sintered bodies were crack-free. They had a total pore volume of 0.130 cc/g and average pore diameter of 18.6 nm based on BET analysis. They were ion exchanged and then sintered, as described in the above procedures. The final sintered parts (Fig. 3 and Fig. 4) were robust, crack free, and translucent. The high fidelity of the shapes was confirmed by comparing digital scans of the surfaces of two printed crowns to each other as well as to a scaled version of the digital stl file used to print them. The sintered parts were determined to have an average Archimedes density of 6.05 g/cc, using the method described above. The strength and translucency of the sintered parts were determined according to the procedures above. The sintered bars had an average flexural strength of 1418 MPa with a maximum of 1617 MPa and a minimum of 1168 MPa. The SLA layer lines could still be optically realized; however, this did not influence the mechanical performance of the test bars (Fig. 5). The discs had an average opacity of 67.8 % at a thickness of 0.98 mm (Fig. 6).

Example 2:

Printing Sol Preparation Procedure

For Example 2, Sol-Sl was concentrated to a composition of 45.91 wt.-% oxide and

6.62 wt.-% acetic acid. To prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-Sl (502.25 grams), MEEAA (8.22 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (123.80 grams) were charged to a 1000 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced by 252.34 grams via rotary evaporation. The resulting sol (145.94 grams) was charged to a 250 ml RB flask and combined with diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (48.69 grams), acrylic acid (9.53 grams), isobornyl acrylate ("SR506 A") (8.26 grams), 1,6-hexanediol diacrylate ("SR238 B") (3.39 grams), and pentaerythritol tetraacrylate ("SR295") (4.36 grams). The sol was passed through a 1-μπι filter. Some of this sol (87.4 grams) was placed into an amber bottle, where Irgacure™ 819 (0.437 gram) and butylhydroxytoluene ("BHT") (0.087 gram) were added. The bottle was placed on a bottle roller to mix. The sol was passed through a 1-μπι filter before use. The approximate viscosity of the printing sol was 21.5 mPa*s at 15.36 1/sec.

The final sol composition was as follows:

Solvent 43.60% 66.89%

Polymerizable 11.60% 16.88%

Material

Stereolithography (SLA) Process

The SLA process described above was applied where each slice of the printing sol was cured with an LED power of 18.4 mW/cm 2 and a normal exposer time of 0.93 seconds. The resulting 3-dim green body gels showed high fidelity to the inputted digital file and good resolution as needed for the realization of complex ceramic articles such as dental crowns or orthodontic brackets. The obtained 3-dim green body gel samples are shown in Fig. 7. The green body gels also had sufficient mechanical robustness for further processing.

The shaped green body gels were dried using super critical extraction, as described above (Fig 8). The resulting aerogels were crack-free and had a total pore volume of 0.456 cc/g and average pore diameter of 13.9 nm based on BET analysis.

The resulting aerogels were then burned out and pre-sintered according to Procedure A. The resulting pre-sintered bodies were crack-free and had a total pore volume of 0.083 cc/g and average pore diameter of 22.2 nm based on BET analysis. They were ion exchanged and then sintered, as described in the above procedures.

The final sintered parts were robust and had high fidelity to the intended orthodontic bracket shape (Fig. 9).

Example 3 :

Printing Sol Preparation Procedure

For Example 3, Sol-Sl was concentrated to a composition of 45.91 wt- % oxide and 6.62 wt.-% acetic acid. To prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-Sl (458.49 grams), MEEAA (7.51 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (112.91 grams) were charged to a 1000 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced by 230.23 grams via rotary evaporation. The resulting sol (115.67 grams) was charged to a 250 ml RB flask and combined with diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (47.21 grams), acrylic acid (7.39 grams), and N-hydroxyethyl acrylamide (F£EAA) (3.80 grams). The sol was passed through a 1- micron filter. Some of this sol (94.7 grams) was placed into an amber bottle, where Irgacure 819 (0.474 gram) and butylhydroxytoluene ("BHT") (0.95 gram) were added. The bottle was placed on a bottle roller to mix. The approximate viscosity of the printing sol was 22 mPa*s at 15.36 1/sec. The final sol composition was as follows:

Stereolithography (SLA) Procedure

The SLA process described above was applied where each slice of the printing sol was cured with an LED power of 18.4 mW/cm 2 and a normal exposer time of 1.5 seconds. The resulting 3 -dim green bodies gel had sufficient mechanical robustness for further processing. The shaped green body gels were dried using super critical extraction, as described above. The resulting aerogels were crack-free and had a total pore volume of 0.716 cc/g and average pore diameter of 18.9 nm based on BET analysis.

The shaped gels were dried using super critical extraction, as described above. The resulting aerogels were crack-free. The resulting aerogels were burned out and pre-sintered according to Procedure A. The resulting pre-sintered bodies were crack-free and had a total pore volume of 0.093 cc/g and average pore diameter of 11.7 nm based on BET analysis. They ion exchanged and then sintered, as described in the above procedures. The final sintered ceramic article was robust. Example 4:

Printing Sol Preparation Procedure

For Example 4, Sol-S2 was concentrated to a composition of 45.08 wt.-% oxide and

6.63 wt.-% acetic acid, and the water/ethanol ratio was 59.09/40.09. To prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-S2 (125.11 grams), MEEAA (2.03 grams), and diethylene glycol monomethyl ether (42.1 grams) were charged to a 500 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced to 108.38 grams via rotary evaporation. Acrylic acid (3.95 grams) and ethoxylated trimethylolpropane triacrylate ("SR454") (6.91 grams) were added to a jar containing the ZrCh sol (70.05 grams). Irgacure™ (0.0715 gram) was dissolved in di ethylene glycol monomethyl ether (1 1.6 grams) and charged to the jar. The viscosity was 31.1 mPa*s at 19.2 1/sec. The sol contained 39.30 wt.-% oxide (approximately 10.1 vol.- %) and 41.9 wt. -% solvent.

Some of this sol (86.0 grams) was placed into an amber bottle, where Irgacure™ 819 (0.43 gram) and butylhydroxytoluene ("BHT") (0.086 gram) were added. The bottle was placed on a bottle roller to mix. The sol was filtered as described above before use.

Stereolithography (SLA) Process

The SLA process described above was applied where each slice of the printing sol was cured with an LED power of 26.2 mW/cm 2 and a normal exposer time of 1.25 sec. The resulting 3-dim green body gels showed high fidelity to the inputted digital file and good resolution as needed for the realization of complex ceramic articles such as dental crowns or orthodontic brackets. As shown in Fig. 10 the obtained 3-dim green body gel samples had sufficient mechanical robustness to allow for further processing as desired.

Example 5:

Printing Sol Preparation Procedure

For Example 5, Sol-S2 was concentrated to a composition of 45.08 wt.-% oxide and 6.63 wt.-% acetic acid, and the water/ethanol ratio was 59.09/40.09. To prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-S2 (300 grams), MEEAA (8.15 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (169.25 grams) were charged to a 1000 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced to 431.69 grams via rotary evaporation. Beta-carboxyethylacrylate (3.96 grams) and ethoxylated trimethylolpropane triacrylate ("SR454") (6.95 grams) were added to a jar containing the ZrCh sol (70.01 grams). Irgacure™ (0.0725 gram) was dissolved in diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (11.24 grams) and charged to the jar. The viscosity was 30.7 mPa*s at 15.36 1/sec. The sol contained 39.63 wt.-% oxide (approximately 10.1 volume %) and 41.92 wt.-% solvent. Some of this sol (50.2 grams) was placed into an amber bottle, where Irgacure™ 819 (0.251 gram) and butylhydroxytoluene ("BHT") (0.05 gram) were added. The bottle was placed on a bottle roller to mix. The sol was filtered as described above before use. Stereolithography (SLA) Process

The SLA process described above was applied where each slice of the printing sol was cured with an LED power of 18.4 mW/cm 2 and a normal exposer time of 1.0 sec. The resulting 3-dim green body gels showed high fidelity to the inputted digital file and good resolution as needed for the realization of complex ceramic articles such as dental crowns or orthodontic brackets. As shown in Fig. 11, the obtained 3-dim green body gel samples had sufficient mechanical robustness to allow for further processing as desired.

Example 6:

To prepare Example 6, Sol-S3 was concentrated to a composition of 40.5 wt.-% oxide and 11.3 wt.-% acetic acid. Then, to prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-S3 (200 grams), MEEAA (10.35 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (33.41 grams) were charged to a 500 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced to 134.07 grams via rotary evaporation. Acrylic acid (5.0 grams), and 4-hydroxy-TEMPO (0.02 grams of a 5 weight % solution in water) were added to the flask. The weight was reduced to 137.65 grams via rotary evaporation. Irgacure™ 819 (0.475 gram of a 10 weight % solution in diethylene glycol monoethyl ether) and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (3.4 grams) were added to ajar containing the ZrCh sol (40.73 grams). The viscosity was 81.4 mPa*s at 11.52 1/sec. The sol contained 54.33 wt.-% oxide (approximately 16.81 vol.-%) and 31.81 wt.-% solvent.

Some of this sol (37.0 grams) was placed into an amber bottle, where Irgacure™ 819 (0.185 gram) and butylhydroxytoluene ("BHT") (0.037 gram) were added. The bottle was placed on a bottle roller to mix. The sol was filtered as described above before use.

Stereolithography (SLA) Process

The SLA process described above was applied where each slice of the printing sol was cured with an LED power of 20.4 mW/cm 2 and a normal exposer time of 3 seconds. As shown in Fig. 12, the obtained 3-dim green body gel samples had sufficient mechanical robustness to allow for further processing as desired. Example 7:

To prepare Example 7, Sol-S3 was concentrated to a composition of 40.5 wt.-% oxide and 11.3 wt.-% acetic acid. Then, to prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-S3 (511.63 grams), MEEAA (7.45 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (154.75 grams) were charged to a 1000 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced to 390.80 grams via rotary evaporation. Acrylic acid (1.73 grams), isobornyl acrylate ("SR506 A") (1.5017 grams), 1,6-hexanediol diacrylate ("SR238 B") (0.6163 gram), and pentaerythritol tetraacrylate ("SR295") (0.7903 gram) were added to a jar containing the ZrCh sol (30.0 grams). Irgacure™ (0.0320 gram) was dissolved in diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (19.2 grams) and charged to the jar. The viscosity was 10.9 mPa*s at 15.36 1/sec. The sol contained 29.74 wt.-% oxide (approximately 6.6 vol.-%) and 57.69 wt.-% solvent. Some of this sol (50.2 grams) was placed into an amber bottle, where Irgacure™

819 (0.251 gram) and butylhydroxytoluene ("BHT") (0.05 gram) were added. The bottle was placed on a bottle roller to mix. The sol was filtered as described above before use.

Stereolithography (SLA) Process

The SLA process described above was applied where each slice of the printing sol was cured with an LED power of 20.4 mW/cm 2 and a normal exposer time of 3 sec. The obtained 3 -dim green body gel samples had sufficient mechanical robustness to allow for further processing as desired.

Example 8:

To prepare Example 8, Sol-S2 was concentrated to a composition of 45.08 wt.-% oxide and 6.63 wt.-% acetic acid and the water/ethanol ratio was 59.09/40.09. Then, to prepare the printing sol, the concentrated Sol-S2 (300 grams), MEEAA (8.15 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (169.25 grams) were charged to a 1000 ml RB flask and mixed. The sample weight was reduced to 431.69 grams via rotary evaporation. Acrylic acid (1.12 grams) and ethoxylated trimethylolpropane triacrylate ("SR454") (2.01 grams) were added to ajar containing the ZrCh sol (20.01 grams), and diethylene glycol monoethyl ether (3.19 grams) was charged to the jar. The sol contained 39.67 wt.-% oxide (approximately 10.1 vol.-%) and 41.98 wt.-% solvent. The composition was similar to Example 1.

The UV/visible transmission was measured using the Method for Determining Light Transmission (% T) described above. Table 5 below summarizes the % T versus the wavelength. Table 5.

Example 9:

The same sol composition as Example 4 was used except that there was no initiator added. Light transmission was measured for a sample in a quartz cell 40 mm wide and 40 mm high with a 10 mm path length (thickness of sample). This cell was located at the front sample position of an integrating sphere detector to measure Total Hemispherical Transmittance (THT). DI water (18 MegOhm) was used in the reference cell. Measurements were made on a Perkin Elmer Lambda 1050 spectrophotometer fitted with a PELA-1002 integrating sphere accessory. This sphere is 150 mm (6 inches) in diameter and complies with ASTM methods E903, D1003, and E308 as published in "ASTM Standards on Color and Appearance Measurement", Third Edition, ASTM, 1991. The instrument was manufactured by Perkin Elmer (Waltham, MA, USA). The scan speed was approximately 102 nm/minute. UV/Visible Integration was 0.56 second per point. The data interval was 1 nm, the slit width was 5 nm, and the mode was % Transmission. Data was recorded from 700 nm to 300 nm.

The UV/visible transmission is shown in Table 6. The data indicate that there is significant light transmission through 1 cm of the sample for the spectral range from 700 nm to less than 350 nm. The Total Hemispherical Transmittance (THT, or total of all light transmitted) indicates all light passed through the sample.

Table 6.