Printing in clay

3D Printing & Imaging
Printing in clay

Unfold Fab announced the first successful printing of a ceramic vessel by a 3D printer. Interestingly, one of the biggest challenges seems to be eliminating the bubbles in the clay. However, what I want to know is, how to fire the resulting pieces?

We took some time to play around and get used to the dynamics of the clay print process. It was also time to step up (or down?) the resolution from 1.9 to 0.8 mm using screw-on luer lock tips. We are also now using powder clay that can be mixed in exact quantities instead of moisturizing chunks of clay. Also figuring out ways of reliably filling the syringes without trapped air. I’m using a similar 60cc syringe where the front is cut off and use this to suck in the clay from the mixing bowl. Then the clay is transferred to the print syringe, this works really well actually.

After some calibrating I decided to print a test design that would be hard to make using conventional techniques: a double walled vessel with fins connecting in- and outside. I was expecting mostly failure but it finished without to much trouble! Due to the restrictions of Skeinforge expecting 3d models, the walls are double filament (1.5mm total). As you can see on the Pleasant3d view there is an outer and inner shell and instead of a line connecting both there are o-loops. Testing a different design now that enables us to test a single filament double wall vessel. But in the end we will need a way to generate tool paths from single walled surfaces instead of solids.

[via Open Materials]

16 thoughts on “Printing in clay

  1. Shadyman says:

    To remove bubbles from a liquid, IIRC, you put it in a vacuum chamber.

  2. mrmeval says:

    A bell jar vacumm may help.

    Use a cap for the needle end of the syringe or make one from a used needle. This is so mixture will not leak.

    You will have to see how much material to put in as this will cause some movement of material.

    Make several syringes and place on a vacuum safe rack

    Evacuate the chamber. For non-volatile material you can go very low. When air is reintroduced voids should be filled.

    Place the plunger in them and transport as needed. Place a needle on it when needed.

  3. mrmeval says:

    Oh, forgot.

    I am sure that there is an adaptor to allow a vacuum to be hooked to a full syringe without plunger but with a sealing cap for the needle end.

    “Vacuum degas” is the term

    Found this which shows an adaptor for using air pressure to dispense. It could be used with vacuum for degass.

    I can’t find it. Sorry.

    I’ve used the bell jar and a vacuum chamber to degass various epoxy resins in both a pot and a syringe. It works well.

  4. rahere says:

    The trouble here is that the clay is at best an emulsified liquid: the vacuum will also suck the water out. Perhaps an ultrasonic bath will do the trick?

  5. Michael says:

    I watched this video the other day about mixing and pouring silicon. It shows a few techniques for removing bubbles that might work with the clay.

  6. jeff-o says:

    Could the clay mixture be vibrated to get the bubbles out, or would that cause it to set too fast?

  7. rmadams says:

    Here is another method that has been used for 3D printing ceramics- this one uses a slurry composed of thin slip and glue to fix clay powder, layer by layer. When the result is fired, neat ceramic sculptures result.

  8. Arthur says:

    Would be interested in hearing more about the process…

    Clay with air bubbles is to dry and adding water adds drying time.

    Try adding a couple drops of liquid sodium silicate to loosen the clay. DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH or you will get a liquid.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

View more articles by John Baichtal


Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).