Sunday, November 28, 2010

Introductions - Jonathan Keep

Jonathan's post (Read An Englishman in Antwerp bellow first):

I am an artist potter based in Suffolk, England and for some time have been interested in studio based 3d ceramic printing so to find out earlier this year what Unfold have been doing was a revelation. Eager to replicate their system I visited Claire and Dries and now have my own RapMan oozing porcelain paste in my UK studio. With a desire to continue Unfolds generosity in sharing knowledge I plan to post my printing progress on the Unfold-fab blog to keep all the information in one place on the web.
My RapMan supplied by Bits from Bytes, Somerset UK is version 3.1.0 loaded with software 4.0.2. Building the flat pack went ok and I had it moving in three or four days. Not interested in printing plastic I have not put the print head together. Wanting to concentrate on printing clay I got on with putting that together.  My ceramic printing head is very cobbled together with bits of gas kiln equipment as I am well aware that there are still lots of development work to be done and so I just wanted to get started to develop from experience.
My starting point is, as developed by Unfold, a 50/60 cc plastic syringe held in a self made cradle attached to the RapMan printer head mount. The syringe is then pressurised from an air compressor -  that I fortunately already had as I have a spray gun for glazing. The one thing I had to go shopping for was the 1K Ohm resistor that bridges two points of the unused print head cable connector plug on the printer control board. This gets RapMan software to think a pen tool is fitted.

Differences from Unfold –
  • I am using a manual switch at the printer head for air pressure control rather than an electronic solenoid valve. This is for simplicity and so far has worked well as I can stop and start clay ooze as I want.
  • I am using a 1.5 nozzle size as my prints are single walled. My thinking is to duplicate conventional pottery coil building techniques. I have set the Z (vertical axis) increment to 1 mm. So a syringe takes about 20 minutes to empty/print and a tall form can be about 10 cm.
  •  I am printing onto pre prepared wades of clay so do not print a base. This does mean I need to get into the gcode in text editor and cut out some code.
  • I use a (not very good) hairdryer as I print to stiffen up the form as more clay gets layer on. 
It has been a week since I got clay oozing and the learning curve has been steep but things are happening and the development put in by Unfold has been invaluable. In which direction all this might go I do not know as ideas and possibilities keep coming but I am making pots. There are still lots of problems, with gcode, with how RapMan behaves, with the limitations of the syringe size but I have a tool I understand and can customise to my ends and that I feel has fantastic creative potential. 
There have been post on how to fill a syringe; well I have to add to that. Having a wall mounted clay extruder in my studio I made a simple turn and lock fitment to take the syringe on the base plate. I fill a plastic bag with the clay paste (my mix is 1 water to 2.5 porcelain clay powder) and stuff the bag into the rather rusty extruder. Put in the plunger and extrusion arm and pull down. Result filled syringe, and so easy to attach the next syringe for a fill.
For further information on Jonathan’s work see –

Thanks for sharing Jonathan!


  1. This is a really inspiring blogpost. I like how artists are picking up the reprap idea.

    I wish I only have some sort of basement to tinker these messy stuffs.

    Best regards,

  2. Hi Jonathan,

    Using the clay extruder to fill the syringe is an excellent idea, maybe a caulking gun would work too with a bag in it, otherwise you still need to fill a syringe although a bigger one.
    I was thinking about using a pug mill to do the mixing in vacuum and then extrude straight in a syringe.