Feb. 10, 2015 | By Alec

While 3D printing in plastic has never been easier or more affordable, commercial ceramic 3D printers are still quite rare, especially for home users and consumers. That’s why we were very interested to learn of a forthcoming ceramic 3D printer developed by the Dutch design duo Yao and Marlieke of Vormvrij 3D. Their currently unnamed 3D printer is set to be revealed next month, at the Rapid Pro Convention in Veldhoven, the Netherlands (3-5 March 2015).

If the combination of Vormvrij 3D and ceramic 3D ceramic printing sounds familiar, that could be because we previously reported on their pioneering ceramic 3D printing experiments in the summer of 2014. At the time, they were very successfully working with a home-made 3D printer capable of producing ceramic objects with a maximum build volume of 60 x 80 x 85 cm. These successful experiments, largely consisting of very cool ceramic bottles, could even be purchased through their Etsy account.

The printer they developed at the time was particularly interesting because it’s also incredibly efficient and reliable. While the exact speed of that 3D printer depends on the specific design and the wetness of the clay, simple and small designs, (like a 20 cm ceramic bottle) would only take about 15 minutes to complete. These items do, however, need to be baked and glazed, and so on after printing is complete.

And now it looks like that very cool technology is going to be available to everyone, and over the past year the printing quality has even been greatly improved upon. While the previous iteration wasn’t very suitable for printing high-quality designs, Marlieke tells 3ders.org that their ceramic 3D printer can now even create high-quality sculptures of people (just see the photo below for proof).

Fired Arnoud, Stoneware clay, 23cm high, scanned, 3dprinted and detailed by Marlieke.

All in all, their machine is looking very promising so far. "The printer can actively control the clay's flow and introduces a dual color claystruder. Part of the model can be printed in a different color or another clay type altogether," Marlieke tells us. "We haven't scratched the surface of possibilities this may present and hope many exciting applications will emerge."

What’s more, this isn’t just about the novelty of doing something with a 3D printer – its also far less laboriously and time-consuming that traditional clay sculpting techniques, even for the subject. "Imagine a sculptor creating a portrait of his client. Photographs could be used. But for the best result he would want the actual model to be there. This may not be a very convenient affair for the customer, time consuming and a costly endeavor," Marlieke tells us. "Now picture visiting a 3D sculptor, you talk about your wishes over a cup of coffee and just before you leave he snaps a couple of high resolution photographs and quickly scans your upper body with a hand held scanner."

"Ten working days later you'll receive a guaranteed vivid stoneware, porcelain or pottery bust with the look and feel of a masters hand."

This is exactly where this type of 3D printing could come in handy, though many professional sculptors probably won’t be interested in it. Marlieke and Yao therefore intend to market their product towards hobbyists and artists who’d like to sculpt as a hobby or to prototype. "The people likely to benefit most of this 3D technique are semi professionals and amateurs. The large group of potters who sculpt as a hobby. They could start with rough 3D printed clay shapes, add detail and bring them to life using their own individual skills and handwriting."

For those people, upcoming ceramic 3D printer will probably be a great tool; the first version of their still-unnamed ceramic printer will feature a build capacity of 70x70x70cm, though Marlieke and Yao are considering developing a smaller version as well. Whatever size you end up getting, just remember one thing: you’ll need a clay kiln (or oven) to complete your projects!

More news about pricing and shipping details, as well as practical tips, will doubtlessly follow next month.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printers

 

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