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Testing 3D Printed Ceramics

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At YouthQuest we are interested in a wide variety of 3D printing technologies to see how they might be helpful for the at-risk young people we serve.   While most of our instruction is done off-site, with consumer 3D printers, we do have a space we call the 3D ThinkLink Lab where we bring those who have shown the most effort for a week of advanced 3D scanning, design and printing using professional additive manufacturing printers.  It's operated as a true lab in that the cadets test new equipment and techniques and prepare a report at the end.

Recently, Formlabs released version 5 of their ceramic resin for the Form2.  And, Kwambio announced a desktop 3D printer at about $5,000.  It's essentially the same technology used in their professional printer that they use for their ceramics print-on-demand service.

We have a full-color powder-based 3D printer.  But, it uses gypsum as the powder and essentially Crazy-Glue as the binder.  The down side is that the output cannot be fired, so it lacks durability.  Thus, the idea of a printer that outputs ceramic greenware that can be fired is VERY appealing to us.  So, I decided to take two paths to explore 3D printing of ceramics.  (1)  We obtained a donated Form2 and purchased Ceramic resin to test and (2) I ordered a printed part from Kwambio as the basis for initial comparison between the two technologies.

The Kwambio ceramic print is of our own design and based on Kwambio's guidelines.  We purposely added internal features and cut-outs that might be difficult to accomplish by hand.   While a very skilled artisan using a coil technique might be able to pull it off, it certainly could not be cast.  And, would really take some effort on a wheel.

The printed object arrived last night.   An image is attached.  The printed object is 58mm high by 72mm wide, which is within one millimeter of the design specs.  While my photograph may not do it justice, the surface quality and color character are stunning in person.

If I actually had one of their printers, I would make the object at least twice as large and finish it quite differently.  But, at least I now know the baseline of what a clay based powder 3D printer can do.

I will be printing roughly the same design on the Form2.  The reason I say "roughly" is that the guidelines for the Kwambio suggested 4+mm walls and the quidelines for the FormLabs Ceramic resin call for walls of 2-3mm.  There are reasons for these difference which I will be discussing later.  But, for now, we'll have to wait for the first ceramic print out of the Formlabs.

At some point, I hope to capture the object in 3D for viewing at all angles on Sketchfab.


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Thanks!  Let's see if this link to the 3D viewer on Sketchfab works.  It is not a captured 3d image, it's the original design colored using Meshlab.  But, it should give everyone a good idea of the design and how well Kwambio pulled off the print.


BTW, Sketchfab is a terrific platform to show ceramic works.  I use 3DZephyr to capture real world objects that can be displayed on sketchFab.

Here is one such capture.





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In this case, they glazed and fired the piece.  So, it arrived completely finished.  The bulk of the cost was shipping from the Ukraine. 

Their headquarters is in New York; but, their print-on-demand is only gased in the Ukraine for now.  I suspect that they might set up a econd print-on-demand site in Hartford, CT at some point.  That is where I expect to go see the Ceramo Zero Max.

At YouthQuest Foundation, we suspect that ceramics 3D printing will be an important component of our training for at-risk young people.  As such, it's important to us to explore the viability and possibilities.  We are educators first and foremost, so communicating what we are learning along the way is part of our DNA.    In this spirit, I have started a new blog to document our progress and communicate our findings.

There isn't much there right now; but, it should grow a;most daily.  http://3Dfired.blogspot.com

The reason we are a good fit for this kind of exploration is that we have been teaching 3D design and printing for years.  So, we know that side of the equation.  We already have experience with both SLA and powder/binder printing technologies and, I have a personal electric controllable Kiln that we can use while experimenting.  If I get in over my head with the clay post-processing side I have my daughter to bail me out.  So, I am hopeful that the blog will be helpful to people coming from both the design and the clay side as they consider 3D printing of ceramics.

For right now, we are limited to being able to explore the SLA technique of printing ceramics.  Frankly, it is not my favorite method of 3D printing.  While it produces beautifully detained prints, the resins require extreme caution.  And, there are many more failures than one might how with a powder/binder printer.  But, it is what is available right now and this is so important to us that we will work with what we have until something better comes along.  Which means we're really hoping the Kwambio Ceramo Zero Max turns out to be reliable and effective. 

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