3D Printer Selection
Initially we chose to use the Bits from Bytes (BfB) RapMan 3.2 3D Printer as our platform since a) it is a wide open design that is easily modified for syringe incorporation and b) because others have already successfully modified this same machine for slurries. We encountered electronic issues when adding our stepper motor for the clay extruder. These problems could have been solved, but after we purchased our machine BfB was bought out by 3D Systems, and support for the machine waned. While unfortunate, it prompted us to find what is likely a better route, using a delta printer kit (Rostock Max) sold by SeeMeCNC . This was perfect for us as SeeMeCNC is based in Goshen, IN, about 20 miles from us. In early June Prof. McGinn drove over, met Steve Wygant and John Olafson, got a quick tour, and returned to campus with a Rostock Max.
The Rostock Max arrives as a kit. This delta design is based on the Rostock developed by Johann Rocholl. After assembly, lots of calibration, and much printing of miscellaneous plastic items (calibration cubes, Yoda, squirrels, etc. ) we modified the printer with the Xnaron carbon arms and magnetic bearings as described here and here: As shown in the figures below, the NdFeB magnets in the carbon arms (held in place inside the blue arm caps (below left) allow for free rotation on the steel bearings. The red effector (below right) has 6 bearings that are contacted by the carbon arms when assembled.
The magnetic arm modification led to an improvement of our plastic print quality and also allows for a fast change over from printing plastic to ceramic.
3D Printer Modification for Slurries
Printing of clay and related ceramics has been pursued by a number of groups and individuals. The pioneer on this front is Dries Verbruggen (aka “unfold”) from Antwep, Belgium. His blog is a good place to start learning about this technology. He is an artist interested in developing 3D printing of ceramics. His blog is extensive and describes his efforts dating back to 2009 when he began his 3D printing work. Much of the path we follow is based on his work. On his blog, he documents many approaches he investigated, including, for example, using a Moineau Paste Extruder with Porcelain Clay. There is a nice lecture by Dries about his work that he delivered at the Conference on Visualization of Information in Wiesbaden, Germany in April 2013. Testament to his impact is that his 3d printing family tree now includes several other ceramist/artist practitioners. They include:
Jonathon Keep. He has an extensive blog that includes a description of printing using powder support. He beat us to the punch on printing from a delta printer as he had a delta machine up and running in early June (video). A few more details of his delta robot appear in a thread in a delta forum.
Rod Bamford. He is an artist from Australia who has also closely followed the work of Dries Verbruggen. He has had several shows and exhibits featuring is “hyperclay” work. You can read about it here and here. His work is featured in the Feb., 2013 issue of Ceramics monthly.
Another Australian, Graham Hay, is also developing a 3D slurry printer for artistic applications. He blogs about it here. He is using a Moineau pump based paste extruder. He is hoping to use paperclay printing, a material that is explained here and here.
Other efforts in various stages of development include a group at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
Ioan Festeu from Romania has developed a paste extruder. He has links to movies showing the extruder in action on the Thingverse page.
Another individual who goes by the handle ixelr8 has several videos showing printing with clay on his youtube channel.
Eran Gal-or at Holon Institute of Technology (Israel) has built a large (industrial size) printer and has a series of videos.
More along the FabClay theme is at the FABbots
site. This details the work of a group of schools of Architecture exploring numerous novel digital fabrication routes to make architectural components.
Finally, Adam Holloway at Project Silkworm is pursuing clay printing.
In addition to the aforementioned unfold blog, another good resource for general 3D printing ceramic extrusion is at the reprap wiki. While there, also be sure and visit the Powder printer recipes for lots of useful information.