Oct 11, 2015 | By Alec

While a decent FDM 3D printer loaded with an interesting filament can achieve much, who doesn’t occasionally jealously stare at other materials? Instructables user Ryanto did the same, and was always fascinated by concrete. Ryanto therefore resorted to combining 3D printing technology with concrete to design a series of very cool and surprisingly easy to make coasters inspired by the Avatar the Last Airbender TV show.

As the maker explains, he has always liked the characteristics of concrete despite all the advantages offered by plastic FDM 3D printing. ‘I love the rough, strong imperfections of concrete, so I’ve been exploring options to combine the prototyping abilities of 3D printing and the cost effectiveness of concrete,’ he says. And with the help of just a 3D printer and some plastic, as well as some concrete supplies (cement, sand, water and oil), he had designed the very impressive set above. He used Portland Cement for this creation, but just about any accessible concrete mixture should do.

And the method is remarkably easy to recreate in your own garage. As the maker explains in his Instructable, he essentially 3D printed a plastic mold in two parts, that can be filled with concrete afterwards. ‘There will be an outer ring and an inner plate that fit into each other,’ he says. The designs for his coasters also available on this Instructable page, but the same principle can be applied to whatever you like. ‘When designing this, make sure the gap between the two parts is sufficient so that the inner plate easily fits down into the outer ring. The smaller the gap, the better,’ Ryanto says.

Just a word of warning: if you use PLA, coat them with polyurethane before pouring in the cement mixture. ‘PLA absorbs water very easily and becomes brittle. The first time I used PLA as a mold, it was so damaged that I had to peel the plastic off the concrete after it was done. So, Polyurethane is an attempt to waterproof the plastic,’ he advises. The mold should also be coated in oil to make removal easier.

Aside from that, the process is fairly simple. Mix a good amount of concrete for your project. Once you have a good and even mixture, fill the molds about halfway and make sure all the nooks and crannies are properly filled by applying plenty of force. ‘Then, lay a damp cloth over the molds and place the molds somewhere cool or in the shade. Leave the castings alone for about 24 hrs, re-wetting the cloth if it gets dry. Then, you should be able to separate the mold by pressing up on the edges of the inner plate and down on the edges of the outer ring. Try not to press too much on the center of the inner plate, as this may break the still-setting concrete,’ he says. ‘Once the casting is removed, place the damp cloth back over the concrete casting and clean and store your molds. You can then re-apply any kind of coating to the mold if it looks like it has scratches.’

Once the concrete is set, you can start painting your creation in whatever material you prefer. Ryanto used some diluted acrylic paint for his, taking good care to get all the little holes that always form on concrete. Followed by some sanding, the results look pretty good. ‘Then, if desired, give the whole thing a coating of concrete sealing (you could also use polyurethane, but it's not as nice). Once the coating dries, cut out felt or cork board, attach to the bottom of the coaster, and done!’ he says. The same principles can be applied to just about any creation, so check out Ryanto’s method on Instructables. For why limit yourself to plastic?

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

 

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