Nov 21, 2018 | By Takyeom Lee


The exciting and rapidly changing digital manufacturing methods have influenced many fields of art and design. These new technologies have introduced new tools for pushing the boundaries of the medium both regarding concept and materiality. Notably, 3D printing clay has been an exciting mix of old material and modern technique. In response to this movement, I have tried to introduce these exciting new digital fabrication techniques to my students. I also received questions about my tools and printing process, but my setting is finicky and requires fine-tuning. I developed a plunger-style clay extruder as I would like to provide tools to my students and encourage more people to build their own tools. I hope it will lead my students and more people into the world of 3D printing ceramics.

Since I developed the extruder, I have been testing and traveling with the new extruder. It has been easy to travel with and requires low maintenance so far compare to my auger extruder system. As most of the parts are very affordable and accessible, fixing the extruder is relatively easy. I do not mean it is perfect, but it still could be improved. Based on my experience, this design worked pretty well, but it cannot print anything big. The following instructions will help you to build a handy plunger-style clay extruder.

List of items

  • 1 X Nema 17 stepper motor through shaft
  • 1 X 12V 40mm cooling fan
  • 1 X 2pin wire with female connector (20-25 inches long)
  • 1 X cable wrap (20-25 inches long)
  • 1 X 60cc syringe
  • 1 X cable tie
  • 2 X M3 6mm
  • 2 X M3 10mm
  • 2 X M3 30mm
  • 3 X 3D printed parts

*You can download the STL files from the URL ( and these parts could be 3D printed with PLA or ABS.

Step-by-step DIY guide

01. First, remove two m3 bolts from the through shaft stepper motor (next to the 4pin wire) and install the 3D printed fan mount sing 2 X m3 30mm bolts.


02. Install the 40mm cooling fan using 2 X m3 10mm bolts. This fan will cool down the stepper motor during printing process.


03. Extend the 2pin wire from the fan and make it the same length as the 4pin wire from the stepper motor. Organize the wire using the cable wrap and a zip tie. You can solder wire together (recommended).


04. Prepare the 3D printed piston, the rubber plunger from the 60cc syringe, and the threaded shaft from the stepper motor. Assemble them and place them in the stepper motor.


05. Prepare the 3D printed syringe holder and 2 X m3 6mm and mount the loaded syringe barrel using the bolts.

You can load clay into the syringe using a spread knife. I am using one from a dollar shop. If you use clay, the syringe is for multiple uses.


06. TA-DA! The extruder is ready to go. You can connect it to your printer although you may need to design a mount for your printer. You can print something approximately up to 15-25min depending on the design and the size of the nozzle. For the nozzle, you can use liquid dispenser needles.


07. To print something properly with the extruder, you need to go through the trial and error process to adjust your setting such as printing speed, feed rate, lead screw, layer height, and viscosity of your clay. You can start with 25-30mm per second printing speed and 20-30 steps per mm for the extruder. These are just suggested settings and you need to optimize the setting for your printer, extruder, and clay body.

If you want to 3D print clay, I recommend you add water to clay body to make it printable. It will help clay to be extruded easily. But too much water would not help the printing process as the print would be collapsed. Clay is a very sensitive material.

Have fun!

Plunger-style paste extruder design – 60cc

Designed by Taekyeom Lee, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design of Department of Art at Appalachian State University



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



Maybe you also like:


Brian wrote at 4/25/2019 7:26:35 PM:

Where did you find your stepper motor? Can you post a link/model number?

Wendu wrote at 4/23/2019 10:33:07 PM:

Hey I made something similar to this, thanks for the inspo! I am struggling to get the motor to turn at all right now once connected to the board, works fine on my arduino for testing. It's my Cura settings I'm thinking but I have no Idea how to fix. Please advise.

Auzze wrote at 11/22/2018 12:00:26 AM:

Why do you need a fan on the stepper motor, if it gets that hot your doing something wrong.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive