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“Material science that works”


Molds made of common salt: How ETH doctoral student Nicole Kleger wants to take the manufacturing industry a step further.

What motivates a mother of two writing her doctoral thesis to enroll in a start-up course, Ms. Kleger?

I work in a complex materials group which has already produced award-winning startups such as Spectroplast and Microcaps. That aroused my curiosity about entrepreneurship. In addition, there is a materials science concept that has a lot of potential and that I already explored in my Master’s thesis.

Can you tell us more?

We’ve found a way to print molds using pure table salt.

Why salt?

Existing 3D mold printing uses polymers with a melting point of approx. 450 degrees centigrade. By using common salt as a material, we can increase that threshold to 800 degrees.

You mainly address manufacturers of molds for the injection molding industry. What are the problems you want to solve?

Our process can be used to produce molds to manufacture castings with new mechanical properties – for lightweight construction, for example. Then there is the price advantage: Steel molds rarely cost less than 10,000 Swiss francs. We are considerably cheaper, which in turn allows the production of very small batches.

How small?

For example, it might be possible to produce personalized housings for hearing aids. In such a case we would be talking about a batch size of one.

Nicole Kleger attended the Business Concept Course in Autumn 2020