Sunday, February 14, 2010

The future's here baby! (first successfully printed ceramic vessel)

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

Last weekend I talked briefly with Adrian Bowyer after his excellent talk at FOSDEM. I was excited to show him our results after he finished his talk with mentioning ceramics as future possibilities (hence the title, wink, wink)

Now lets pray all together that trapped air bubbles won't make it pop...

More images and video in our gallery [note 04-2015: gallery is gone)

ps. Sorry Erik for the missing reference, its 70 x 70 mm


  1. Now, to print a ceramic insulator! :-D

  2. if someone sends me a 3d file i'm happy to give it a shot... :)

  3. Excellent print It looks like your layers very much thinner than 0.8mm the difference is incredible.

    How often did you need to refill the syringe?

    Do you recalculate a layer to stop at for refilling the syringe?

    How do you eliminate air pockets being created as you extrude onto the previous layer?

    Will you do any trial firing of the ceramics yet?

  4. Wow. This is way cool. And pretty. And I'm thinking it could be an interesting way to cast metals.

  5. Wonderful!

    To make a single layer on skeinforge, you can make the inside and outside very close together, say less than half the perimeter width, then the Inset tool will remove the outside wall.

    In skeinforge, a hollow shell is created in Preface, then Inset insets the shell and Fill fills it. So if you want a hollow shell, deactivate Fill.

  6. Thanks all!

    The layers are 0.6. This object was around 40cc so no refill needed. I think Skeinforge can already calculate total extruded volume so it could possibly be adapted to insert gcode pauses after a certain volume is extruded, a margin would be wise. I was not yet working on this problem but this could work. In regards to air pockets, at the moment I only try to have no air in the syringe but for the build object I am waiting to see what happens when firing this first tests. Maybe it is porous enough so air can escape, lets wait and see. The parts are waiting till the kiln is full (its a big one) probably tomorrow.

    Thought I tried that long ago but I should definitely give it another try, thanks for the tip! Turning off fill also removes the solid surfaces at the bottom, it would be nice to be able to turn off infill only (hex, line, rect). What I do now with some objects is do one export with fill and one without and then replace the first 2-3 layers of the unfilled object with the filled one. Yes its a little cut and paste but better than removing one shell in every layer :-)

  7. @unfold: Extremely impressive result! I had seen your sneek preview at FOSDEM but looking at it in detail makes me even more awestruck. Not that I thought it couldn't be done but I'm impressed by the rapid progress that you make with something entirely new!
    Can you smooth out the slurry before firing it? This would allow pretty smooth moulds for casting metals and such. I'm also VERY interested in ceramic and plastics put together (e.g. experimenting with the composite material and structural strength). One other interesting thing: You could even use ceramics and molten metal to instantly cast a 3D circuit. Just like has been done with Bakelite (Adrian pointed this out to me at HAR2009). Ceramics could easily handle most metals' melting temperature! (I know I'm getting carried away a bit, but this IS truely amazing!)

    @ Thomas: in addition to an insulator you could print a metal deposition system. I'll post a design I've made which should be made in temperature resistant material (such as these ceramics!). This is great for bootstrapping other print-heads!

    One last thing: a mould with internal cavities allows rapid cooling and mould pre-heating. Through a process other than additive this can hardly be done. It could be extremely useful for casting a series of products from a mould. Though you get identical things, and the point of RepRap related technologies is that every part is customized.

    Exciting times to be a RepRapper!

  8. In theory, it should be possible to make single filament walls by carefully modeling the object.

    To have no fill on the upper layers, in a modeling program, subtract a cylinder which has a radius just slightly smaller than the radius of the first cyliner, and which starts about three layers up.

    To make single wall internal fins, subtract a cylindrical ring section which leaves fins that are less than roughly half a perimeter width thick.

    The Inset tool should remove the overlap, leaving you with single filament walls. Fill would then generate infill for the bottom of the cup up to the subtracted inner cylinder.

    It would take a long time to carefully model the object so that all the double walls are less than half a perimeter width thick, but you would only have to do it once:)

  9. Looks like a great way to print heater element formers for the extruders. Good Work

  10. Enrique, modeling is no problem ;)

    For all the heater element ideas. Its important to understand that ceramic shrinks by 10-20% during firing. To get exact dimensions you need lots of tests and repeatable conditions. So best is to have a design with some margins and not a tight fit. If anyone has an idea about a part I can give it a try.

  11. That looks really great - Have you considered trying to mix a slip with isopropyl alcohol and a deflocculant rather than water? I'm guessing that the alcohol would evaporate more quickly, reducing sag.

  12. Are there any plans to make something that can "resurface" these prints? I.e. make the outer layers smooth and/or to glaze them?

  13. Shrinks nothing, it sinters down! Control your bonding surface energies and make nozzles out of something with consistent wetting energy (or which is superhydrophobic.) Back the nozzle with piezos to deliver bonding energy as needed and set overall nozzle pressure.

    Nice work so far! I hope you can get your modeler to tile minimal surfaces and crank out some exemplary vases, pressure vessels, the occasional self-reproducing scroll compressor, and some self-cleaning flatware.

  14. Oh yes...and when you fire/refire them, be sure to get a camera on their projection from the kiln in case they pop interestingly?

  15. Wonderful, well done! Try printing out a bust in ceramic!

  16. Also, you should sand this object and post a picture of a sanded or sanded + glazed product.

  17. Could ArtClay Silver/Gold/Copper Clay be usesed this way?

  18. Very interesting article, especially considering you are using wet clay. However, John Balistreri and researchers from Bowling Green State University, were the first to print ceramic material back in 2007.

    I suggest the issue on his research Summer 07 Studio Potter article or check out his website regarding the topic,

  19. @Mason Balistreri: Yes, the title should have been a bit more descriptive. We intended to say that this was OUR first successful ceramic vessel. Small difference :) We know of the excellent work done by others and already had a post in the pipeline about the difference between what we try to do and what Balistreri and Ganter did with modified ZCorp machines


  21. Well done!

    To the folks asking about smoothing the rough surface: I would imagine that the traditional tools for smoothing greenware would apply - sponge and water!

  22. Great idea! Prototype looks great too and logical.
    Are you guys still looking for guinea-pigs to try out samples or experiments? I would love to give you a design to try out.
    Or can I allready let you make something professionally (on order), and what would the potential cost be?

    It would be something simple and not too big.

    Anyway, as a belgian ceramic designer I am very interested and my congrats to you.

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  24. Hey, I know 3D printing is the next generation market in printing industry and i am amazed to see the printing process which is totally unique hats off to you for this job nicely done!

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  26. Excellent work Unfold!

    3d technology is being utilized now in a lot of industries. Companies today use sophisticated inspection services to have more accurate details in their prototypes. There is a great focus in dimensional measurements because thorough analysis of such can help solve the deficiencies in the earlier product models.

    Also, such technology can be useful in creating structural blueprints and product samples. Indeed, a good way to predict what the output will be like.

    Good luck on your next works!

  27. is another group that is making 3d printed ceramic objects using a zprint 310 plat form.

  28. Hi there, nice information provided. thanks for that. keep posting of blogs in the future. thanks once again...