In the series of 3D printing tutorials on my website, I would think that 3D printing: how to print ceramics, might come in handy?
If you have no clue at all about what 3D printing is or don’t know where to start, I have written a few tutorials before:
- What Are 3D Printers – A Beginner’s Guide
- DIY 3D Printing Miniatures – An Oversight
- Miniature 3D Printing – More Insights And A Tutorial
- The Best 3D Printers For Sale – An Overview
So I thought to elaborate some more on 3D printing, but making (miniature) ceramics specifically.
As building something in real size is more or less the same in small size, except when you would use a little pottery wheel 🙂
Anyway, without further ado, here we go!
But First The Question: Can You 3D Print With Ceramic?
Mainly, people talk about 3D printing in plastic, because that is currently the most used.
This doesn’t mean that there are many more materials that can be used for 3D printing, like metal, glass, wood, and yes: clay for ceramic.
So the answer to the question is: yes, you can3D print with ceramic, although it is probably the hardest of all printable materials.
Ceramic printing is of great importance in various industries these days, including the medical world.
What kind of Clay Is Used For Ceramic 3D printing?
There are various developments going on to print ceramics, using ceramic powder or a clay-like paste.
What you need to find is a type of clay with the right consistency.
Most types of clay are suitable right of the package to throw on the pottery wheel or to build with your hands, but these are too hard to print with.
For a starter, the advice would be to use a clay that contains about 10% to 25% of chamotte, like this one from Amazon. But don’t use rough chamotte.
Using clay without chamotte makes it a little bit “stickier” and so it will get pieces of clay stuck into the mechanism of the extruder.
You might wonder if porcelain clay is suitable for ceramic printing, but it is not advised for beginners at all, as it is very difficult to work with.
As for colors: you can mix different colors in one cartridge, as to get an interesting mix.
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What are the differences between ceramic and plastic printing?
Printing 3D with plastic, it is melted first to make it malleable and after that, it is cooled off quite quickly, so that the next layers can be put on top of it.
Clay, however, needs to air dry and it can take 24 hours before it is dry.
This is the reason why the design of the ceramic needs to be so that it doesn’t collapse easily when the project is still wet.
In plastic printing, the nozzle is about 0,4 mm, we use larger nozzles in ceramic printing. The smallest can be 0,6, but often a nozzle of 1mm to even 3 mm.
This latter means that the in-between layers of printed clay will be larger and up to 1mm.
But this also means that you might need just one layer of thickness to build the wall of an object, especially in mini size!
And for plastic, you need multiple layers to build the wall.
What are the Materials That You Need For Ceramic 3D Printing?
One of the advantages of ceramic printing is that you don’t need any molds, it is the digital machine that makes the mold for you!
What we do need is:
So we don’t need to invest in equipment to make molds.
- digital files or digital molds in the form of software (Rhino, for example)
- a 3D printer, obviously (see below)
- clay with chamotte
Would you like to get a longer list of software to use for 3D printing? Check out the list here!
Different Kinds Of Ceramic 3D Printers.
- A basic ceramic extruder consists of a container with clay, pressurized with air pressure.
This is called a direct air extruder and it is the most simple way to start with clay printing.
- Another popular system is the RAM extruder, which works more like a medical syringe.
A plunger is attached to a psychical rod and a motor is driving down the rod and pushes the clay out of the nozzle.
These two extruders are very specific for printing with clay.
Of course, these need to be attached to 3D printers, which in fact could be any 3D printer. (surprised?)
- A big distinction between 3D printers is first a Cartesian printer, one that moves in an X, Y, or Z dimension.
Or Delta printers that have 3 arms. Which one you choose is more a personal choice.
- But you could also choose to build your own 3D printer for a ceramic printer, that is just something more advanced and you can learn a little bit about that in the online course below.
- A third option could be to borrow an already assembled 3D printer and try things out!
The Pros and Cons of printing ceramics.
- You don’t need molds
- You can customize projects, like having a name written on an object
- We can produce lots of projects at the same time and on-demand, which makes it more sustainable. Because you only produce what you need
- Because the designs are digital, they are easily shared around the world
- you can produce them from the comfort of your own home, with no need for large studios
- using ceramics or wood for objects reminds us more of natural products and cozy interiors than plastic or resin
- printing with clay prints faster than plastic
- A 3D printer can of course get expensive
- You are not creating ceramics in an old-vintage way with a pottery wheel
What Are 3D printed ceramics actually used for?
Ceramic 3D printing is used in industries like automotive, electrical, chemical, medical, and environmental projects.
But of course, also for (miniature)pottery and sculptures and art.
A Short Review On The Online Course Available On This Topic.
Who Is The Teacher?
The teacher of this online tutorial on ceramic 3D printing is called Dries Verbruggen and he is from Belgium but speaks English in the tutorial very well.
Together with Claire Warnier, his partner, they founded the company “Unfold” and he also teaches at the University of Antwerp, where he used to study design.
But what’s most important is that he was involved a lot in the invention of the 3D ceramic printer.
Some More Information On The Course.
As the developer, this teacher invented the first ceramic 3D printer that you can own and build yourself.
- He will tell you more in detail about the clay to use, the different 3D printers, and a very expanded explanation of the software to use for 3D printing ceramics.
- The projects made in this course are: 2 milk jugs and a sugar bowl with patterns.
- The tutorial also includes a course on setting up slicing software, step by step.
- Of course, we can’t miss out on the printing process, which is in 5 parts:
1. Preparing The Clay.
You have seen what clay you need to buy (almost any), but you need to make it softer by adding water to the clay.
Everything is explained in detail on how to do this.
2. Filling The Cartridge.
In this part of the tutorial, you will learn how to load the clay in the 3D printer and how to fill the cartridges.
3. How to set up the system.
Before you can start printing, you need to learn how to set up the printer and the air pressure supply.
How to install the nozzle and the clay cartridge and test and adjust the clay flow, are other things you need to learn in this part of the course.
Finally, the teacher talks about suitable base materials to print on.
4. 3D Printing your Milk Jug and Sugar Bowl
This speaks for itself, let’s print! You should now be able to run the files you prepared in part 3.
You can also observe the printing process and learn how to recognize a good or bad print. Another thing to learn is how to adjust the settings during printing to improve quality.
5. Surface Treatment and glazing.
And finally, you can learn about finishing techniques for your printed ceramics, such as sponging and glazing.
Buy 3 online courses for 26,98$
Other Usefull Resources For Ceramic 3D Printing.
- Wikifactory: a forum for ceramic 3D printers
- A Facebook group for ceramic 3D printers.
- Artists from the Ceramic 3D Printing Community: Stacy Jo Scott on Instagram, and Jonathan Keep on Youtube:
Of course, there is more than this if you just look around 😉
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial on 3D printing: how to print ceramics, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to leave them below.
Or you can now join any of my social media channels below or join my Facebook group.
I wish you happy crafting!