Ceramic 3D Printers

Ceramic 3D Printing – The Essential Guide

Ceramic 3D Printer

3D printed ceramics are practical and decorative. Learn more about ceramic 3D printing or even build your own ceramic 3D printer.

So you want to 3D print a cool coffee mug or animal figurine for your home? Or are you looking for some special ceramics for your lab? Then you might consider 3d printing them. If you’re still a rookie when it comes to ceramic 3D printing, don’t worry.

If you’re more of a ‘do-it-yourself’ 3D printing aficionado, here are some DIY ceramic 3D printers to get you started on your pottery, ceramic prototypes, and more.

Ceramic 3D Printing: Terms You Need To Know

Before we start, here are some terms you need to know when talking about ceramic 3D printing:

  • Green object: the clay object that still needs to be sintered (or fired up) in a kiln.
  • Sintering: the process of partially melting clay particles to obtain a hard ceramics object.
  • Kiln: the oven used for the post processing (sintering) of the green object.
  • Binder Jetting: the 3D printing technology that works by gluing together powder particles to form the object’s slices.
  • Paste extrusion deposition: the 3D printing process. It’s similar to fused filament deposition, where a paste material is extruded to form a green object.
  • Clay: a fine-grained natural rock or soil material that combines one or more clay minerals with traces of metal oxides and organic matter.
  • Ceramic: an inorganic, nonmetallic solid material comprising metal, nonmetal or metalloid atoms. It is usually made from clay sintered in a kiln.
  • Porcelain: is a material made by heating materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F). It’s more durable and heat-resistant.

Ceramic 3D Printing: Online 3D Printing Services

If you’re ready to start exploring the wide world of 3D printed ceramics, the easiest way is via an online printing service such as Shapeways or iMaterialise.

These services print a wide variety of ornamental, colorful objects for the home or office. The ceramic material used to print the objects is food-safe, recyclable, and water-tight. This makes it perfect for cups, saucers, plates, even statues, and figurines.

Take a look at the diagram below to see how the process works. If you’re ready to try it out, upload a design here and we’ll show you the cost comparison!

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A diagram of the binder jetting process applied by i.materialise to 3D print with ceramics (image: i.materialise)

Ceramic 3D Printing Service #1: Shapeways

Shapeways offers quality 3D printed porcelain objects instead of traditional ceramic material. They argue that the material is more functional and more durable. They offer a variety of beautiful finishes including glossy and matte colors.

  • Advantages: Porcelain is dishwasher-, oven-, and microwave-safe.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer Service for: Kitchenware including pizza stones, bakeware, plates, cups, figurines, bookends, etc.
  • Printers used: Selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printers

Ceramic 3D Printing Service #2: iMaterialise iMaterialise Ceramics

The Belgium-based online service i.materialise uses a slightly different technology. It 3D prints ceramics models from an alumina-silica ceramic powder sealed with porcelain and silica. A lead-free, non-toxic glaze is added for extra shine and durability and available in many colors.

  • Advantages: The ceramic material is heat resistant (up to 600°C), recyclable
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer Service for: Home decor stuff and tableware including plates, cups, etc. Also for lab equipment.
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: Zcorp binder jet technology

Ceramic 3D Printing Service #3: Lithoz

Austria-based Lithoz offers a user-friendly online service and ‘plug & play’ network with different glass ceramic material options. You can use their software to create specific ceramic parts.

  • Advantages: The patented LCM-Process of Lithoz offers the possibility to produce 3d printed ceramic products in a fast, more cost-efficient way.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer Service for: Prototypes, small-scale series, and complex geometries.
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: 3D printer CeraFab 7500

Ceramic 3D Printing Service #4: Admatec Europe

Admatec is the company to go to when it comes to technical ceramic components. By use of the in-house developed Admaflex technology, they deliver ceramic printed components upon customer specifications. Materials consist of alumina- and zirconia-oxide.

  • Advantages: Expertise in ceramic 3D printing for industrial uses.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer Service for: High-tech components, medical, dental, automotive and aesthetical industries.
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: The company has developed their own professional ceramic 3D printers.

Ceramic 3D Printing Service #5: 3D Ceram 3D Ceram

If you want 3D printing ceramic parts for industrial or lab use, you want an experienced partner. French company 3D Ceram can offer 15 years of expertise in the field of ceramic 3D printing. They have developed their own brand of ceramic 3D printers. These printers are also available for sale. The company also offers services in material choice, draw-up specifications, R & D, development of a 3D part up to its industrialization, on-demand production or series-production.

  • Advantages: The company is using ceramic 3D printers since 2005. The service made mainly for industrial use cases.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer Service for: Aerospace, defense, aeronautics, automotive Industry; biomedical parts; jewelry and watchmaking
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: 3D Ceram are offering their own brand of ceramic 3D printers, i.e. the Ceramaker 900.

Ceramic 3D Printing: DIY Ceramic 3D Printing

Online service options are great for some people because they are fast and convenient. But some people want to get their hands dirty and be part of the whole process. If you’re willing to spend the money and your sweat, there are some great professional 3D ceramic printers on the market that have large volume outputs, more options, and offer great results.

Check out these manufacturers if you’re looking to get started or continue your 3D printing at home.

Ceramic 3D Printer #1: WASP’s Clay Extruder DeltaWASP Clay Extruder

Italian 3D printer manufacturer WASP is known for its large size delta 3D printers. They made headlines by using their Big Delta systems to build houses and shelters in developing countries.

The WASP’s professional clay extruder system is evidence of their expertise. Now, it’s available to third party 3D printers (meaning: the rest of us). When properly set up, this technology offers some of the most precise paste extrusion 3D printing on the market.

If you’re interested, WASP’s Clay Extruder Kit 2.0 will set you back US$700 (around €650). It comes with a 5 kg tank with a stand, an extrusion piston, pressure reducer, a cochlea with an interchangeable pressure chamber, a high couple stepper engine and 10 kg of porcelain. 

Plus, there’s an SD card which contains the .stl file for the two models, PowerWASP and DeltaWASP, helpful assembling instructions, and some videos on how to prepare the mixtures.

  • Advantages: Among the most notable innovations presented by the new ceramics extruder is the extrusion system itself. It eliminates air bubbles out of the mixture, has an extrusion controlling system with a retraction option and an outward pressure multiplier of up to 40 bar.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer for: This technology offers some of the most precise paste extrusion 3D printing on the market. The green objects are very fragile at first and need to be sintered in a kiln, but the results are quite impressive, and the costs are relatively low.
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: The kit is used in combination with most WASP’s 3D printers and turns them into ceramic 3D printers. If you want to retrofit another Delta 3D printer model with it, contact WASP before ordering.

Ceramic 3D Printer #2: 3D PotterBot – Made for Ceramic 3D Printing Ceramic 3D printer Potterbot

3D PotterBot is one of the first truly dedicated ceramic 3D printers, made especially for the pottery industry. It produces large volumes of undiluted ceramic materials via its large capacity constant flow RAM extruder, so you get precise and continuous flow prints.

DeltaBots, the company behind it, have specially designed the envelope for larger ceramic vessels. The maximum height of an object is 17 inches.

At the moment, you can order four ceramic 3D PotterBot printers. Each one is designed to be extremely rigid in construction, yet simple with low part counts. So, you get the best possible pottery making results.

  • Advantages: The 3D PotterBot offers unprecedented control over the flow of the ceramic or paste. By eliminating the hose delivery system, it gets rid of lag and hysteresis caused by hoses. So what? Well, that means you get extremely precise, constant extrusion layer throughout the entire print. The extruder does not use air, outside power sources or an air compressor to propel the paste.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer for: Paste ceramic 3D printing due to its design. The extrusion mechanism is located above the printing platform. This construction enables printing directly from the end of the RAM Extruder tip.
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: 3D Potterbot V2.5: 44 x 38 x 48 cm build; 3D Potterbot V2.9: 44 x 38 x 48 cm; 3D Potterbot V3.5: 66 x 45 x 55 cm; 3D Potterbot V4.5: 26 x 18 x 22 cm

See full specs for the four Ceramic 3D printers here.

Ceramic 3D Printer #3: The LUTUM 3D Clay Printer For Dual Color Objects

The Vorm Vrij’s LUTUM 3D Clay Printer is perfect if intend to use two different types of clay in a single print. It’s the only (semi-) affordable ceramic 3D printer out there at the moment.

“Vorm Vrij” means “Free Form” in Dutch and that’s exactly what you get: versatility. These printers give you many more options and are indeed hassle-free to operate and user-friendly.

The printers include a pressure clay system, LED control system, printer assembly tools, sculpting tools, dedicated software, clay preparation tools, air systems and tools, different extruders and much more.

  • Advantages: The printers can 3D print any shape. The Dutch start-up is seeking to expand this possibility via dual ceramics extrusion system, dubbed the “dual clay struder”.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer for: Printing different types of clay and many shapes in a single print.
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: Lutum mini:45 x 44 x 45 cm build volume, Lutum MXL System: 45 x 44 x 75cm, Lutum Dual System: 45 x 40 x 45 dual color build volume. The printers vary by extruder system and the size of the clay tank.

Ceramic 3D Printer #4: The Original Clay 3D Printer ceramic 3D printer tethon3D

It used to be that if you wanted to print using clay, you had to use ZCorp’s (now 3D Systems) binder jetting technology. These systems offer industrial-grade quality at an industrial-grade price. But times have changed. These days,  Zprinter 310 and 510 Series ceramic 3D printers are getting more inexpensive, ranging from $5000 (used) to $15.000 (new). If you don’t mind spending the extra money, you can also just adapt 3D Systems’ new x60 series of binder jetting systems.

  • Advantages: Create highly intricate clay geometries through the binder jetting process (which does not require supports).
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer for: Clay printing
  • Ceramic 3D Printer types: Zprinter 310 and 510 Series ceramic 3D printers

Ceramic 3D Printer #5: Multi-Material Printers zmorph black friday

You can also buy all-in-one 3D printers can to 3D print with a variety of 3D printing materials. Usually, you just exchange the toolhead and off you go. In the range of all-in-one 3D printers, there are some that also can extrude clay or even do food 3D printing. But be aware: These models are not dedicated ceramics 3D printers.

  • Advantages: These all-in-one solutions usually offer ceramic tool heads and extruder. Most of them aren’t as sophisticated as WASP’s Clay Extruder, but they’ll do the job.
  • Ideal Ceramic 3D Printer for: People who want regular FFF 3D printing and experiment in ceramic 3D printing.
  • Printers & Add-Ons: Z-Morph, Wasp Evo, RepRap Claystruder

Ceramic 3D Printers #6: Clay 3D Printers To Watch

1. Ceramic 3D Printer: Clay XYZ

Clay XYZ started offering their 3D printer through a Kickstarter in Summer 2017. According to the company, the goal of the ClayXYZ is to “want more people to experience the fun of DIY, let more people achieve their own ideas.” It is also marketed as an easy way to get into clay 3d printing, letting you explore DIY cups, bowls, and lampshades, and decorate your home with those famous buildings and statues.

The extrusion device should be compatible with many existing FDM 3D printers, also.

If all goes according to plan, this ceramic 3D printer will be delivered to the backers in March 2018.

2. Ceramic 3D Printer: Olivier van Herpt’s Clay Printer

When it comes to 3D printing with ceramic filament, Olivier van Herpt is probably the most interesting and gifted artist. He is known not only for his beautiful 3D printed clay objects but also to experiment with interesting new techniques, like applying sonic waves to the extruder to get new forms of patterns (All3DP reported).

He uses a custom made clay 3D printer and a special extruder system. There’s also talk about making this printer publically available. If that happens, we’ll keep you updated.

3D Printing Ceramic Filament: Tethon

If you‘re looking for material for clay printers, you can either go for your own secret sauce or buy some professional 3D printing ceramics material. A good place to order from online is Tethon3D from Omaha, Nebraska. Currently, they offer two materials.

  • Porcelite Ceramic 3D printer resin” for SLA and DLP 3D printers.
  • Tethonite Ceramic Powder”. You will need the liquid binder as well.

Did we miss something? Please feel free to add to the comments anytime.