Jun 2, 2016 | By Tess

Innovative design studio Nervous System, which our readers may remember from its stunning 3D printed kinematics dresses, has recently ventured into the realm of 3D printed ceramics by experimenting with Tethon 3D’s new material called Porcelite. In a blog post about the process of 3D printing with porcelain, Jessica Rozencrantz, one of Nervous System’s founders, outlines the challenges she faced and solutions she found while printing with the new material.

As the post explains, Nervous System’s designers became interested in 3D printing ceramics when they heard about Tethon3D’s Porcelite, a ceramic resin developed for SLA and DLP 3D printers, through a Kickstarter campaign launched this past February. With the new material, Rozencrantz and Nervous System’s other founder Jesse Louis-Rosenberg set out to make a set of porcelain cups featuring the design studio’s distinctive scientific flair.

The structure of the porcelain cups was inspired by cellular structures, and was designed with the intention of insulating heat while keeping the outer cup cool to the touch. This was achieved through a novel double walled design, which provided an airy structure. As Rozencrantz explains of the design inspiration, “We wanted to explore ceramic designs that really required the use of 3D-printing and would be nearly impossible to make any other way, even by hand. We were also interested in playing with the idea of double walled chambers or heat sinks for insulating properties… We designed a series of cups surrounded by intricate cellular networks…These shapes are not only be beautiful and functional, but are also self-supporting for the printing and firing processes.”

Of course, being new to the 3D printing porcelain process, the cup’s design and production took the design duo over a month to perfect. Firstly, and what drew the designers to Porcelite, was the fact that it is one of the few, if not the only 3D printable ceramic to be designed for use on an SLA printer. SLA 3D printing, which according to Rozencrantz offers one of the most seamless and high quality prints, could give the designers the freedom to create their signature complex designs out of ceramics.

To print their ceramics, Nervous System used their in house Formlabs 3D printer, which posed a number of initial challenges. First, was the size. As Rozencratz explains, because of the limited print volume of the Formlabs 3D printer, and the necessity for supports, they had to design within a maximum height limit of just over 5 inches. Second, it took the designers some time to figure out the optimal printer settings for printing with the porcelain material, which is made up of a photopolymer mixed with ceramic powder. As they explain, the material if left undisturbed can begin to separate, which can pose problems during a print, especially if it is a long one. To fix the problem, and to keep the material from separating, Nervous System had to figure out how to use the wiper on their Form 2 3D printer, which is automatically disabled when using “Open Mode” for materials. “To get around this we use an empty cartridge to spoof a normal Formlabs material, instead of using Open Mode,” reads the blog. “Because we use an empty cartridge, we have to manually add resin for long prints.”

For other print settings, the design studio says it successfully used settings for Flexible V2 and a 50 micron layer height. Additionally, to stop the print from falling off the build plate during the printing process, the design duo added a coarse sandpaper to the build plate to increase adhesion. They also recommend using large supports (with a contact size between 0.9 and 1.2mm), but don’t worry they are easy to break off.

Of course, one of the essential steps in any ceramic making process is the firing of the piece. With 3D printed ceramics, the firing also works to burn out the resin in the material, vitrifying the ceramic, which effectively forms into solid porcelain. According to Nervous System, during regular firing processes, pieces can expect to shrink up to 12% in size, while with their 3D printed ceramics they found that they shrank about 17.5%, which causes stress on the material which can result in cracking, and slumping.

To help in the prevention of bubbles, which form when the resin turns into gas in the firing process, Nervous System found that curing the print with a UV oven for a couple of hours helped. Lastly, and supposedly the easiest step of the process, is to glaze the 3D print. Rozencrantz says that they used a store bought glaze called Amaco LG-11, which they diluted and sprayed onto the ceramics in four coats. The glaze works to effectively cover up printing layers, and even small cracks. Judging by the stunning results in the photos of Nervous System’s pieces, the design duo was able to successfully figure out the ins and outs of 3D printing with Porcelite. Now, with their tested settings and tips, you can print your own complex and beautiful porcelain pieces.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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RobinLeech wrote at 6/3/2016 1:16:53 AM:

As for the separating, you can make a magnetic stirrer fairly easily or you can buy one like they use in labs, and you can probably get it under one of these printers. Of course you'd want to experiment with it and have the stirrer come on at the right times, but it's something that can be done relatively inexpensively.

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