Aug 23, 2016 | By Alec

Clay has never been hotter within the 3D printing community, both as a 3D printable material and as a hands-on modelling tool (just check out this BYU 3D modelling innovation). As a result, more and more people are looking into clay and ceramic 3D printing opportunities. Just earlier this week, a team of Chinese students even launched a crowdfunding campaign for a budget clay 3D printer. But the undisputed benchmark in clay 3D printing is the LUTUM 3D printer series by Dutch pioneers VormVrij 3D, and they have just revealed upgrades to their very successful hardware. Through numerous innovations that improve 3D printing resolution and even open the machine up to edible materials, they have made the LUTUM series future-proof.

It’s just the latest chapter in the success story of VormVrij 3D, who first appeared on the scene back in 2014 with a remarkable ceramic 3D printer and began selling 3D printed ceramic bottles on Etsy. It was founded by designer duo Yao and Marlieke, who are both graduates from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. By combining their 3D printing and ceramic expertise, they created a 3D printer capable of efficiently and reliably printing ceramics– and with stunning results.

In early 2015, that machine was finally brought to the public in the shape of the LUTUM 3D printer, which became a huge international hit and was followed by numerous iterations of all shapes and sizes – including Mini and XL versions. Since then, the LUTUM has found its way into workshops in the Americas, Europe, Australia, and the far east, and VormVrij was even forced to move to a larger facility to cope with growing demand.

But the Dutch developers have not been resting on their technological laurels since then, and have been working hard to incorporate client feedback into a new generation of LUTUM 3D printers. Most remarkably, they have discontinued the XL version, saying that the learning curve for that large build surface was simply too steep and too uneconomical. But to compensate, they have upgraded the flagship model and even released two new printer models. In fact, one of the replacement models (the MXL) has the same height range as the discontinued XL, but is much easier to handle. The other new model, the LUTUM dual, has been designed to allow for dual color ceramic 3D printing.

But most importantly, VormVrij has updated their extrusion system. While very similar in appearance, the upgrades make the extruder far more reliable and versatile. “Coupled with the new high pressure micro cartridges and the recently upgraded medium cartridges it is now possible to use harder clay than before. A more robust coupler between the barrel and the motor also delivers better torque transfer, while the off-the-shelf nozzle kits guarantee print precision,” its designers explain. It is now also far easier to disconnect and clean the extruders, while four models are made available for different printer setups – even for a custom robotic arm build.

The resolution levels achieved with this new setup is clearly visible above, where two different models are visible. On the left is the part 3D printed using a 2014 model LUTUM, while the right version has only just been 3D printed (0.5 mm layer height). The quality difference is clearly visible, even though the newest print was still wet and unfired.

But the possibilities of the new and improved LUTUM 3D printer don’t end there, as this new setup also allows for more functional and complex prints. This is clearly illustrated by the 64 interconnected ceramic chains visible above, a model which was hitherto impossible to 3D print in clay. To build it, the VormVrij team actually had to dilute normal stonewear material to make it 3D printable, but still hard enough to form bridges. It just illustrates what clay and some material ingenuity can bring to the table. The same can be said for the Makerbot Sabretooth skull visible below, which was taken directly from Thingiverse and underlines the LUTUM’s ability to 3D print difficult overhangs and bridges. Even then, it took just four hours to print, with the teeth being made by hand.

As the team explains, compressed air is still vital for good 3D printing results with the new LUTUM system, and it’s something they are often asked about. “In the LUTUM® system it proved a simple and reliable way of delivering precise amounts of different clay types to the advanced extruder attached to the printer. An optional silent (50dB) 2 or 4 stroke compressor can be provided with the Printer if necessary. Another handy fact of this system is the ability to fill the cartridges by hand if no pug mill is available,” they say. But at the end of the day, the quality of the clay still determines the quality of the prints.

However, clay won’t be the only thing on the LUTUM menu for much longer. Food pastes, including mash potato, tomato, butter, cheese and even insect pastes, chocolate, marzipan and cookie dough will all become 3D printable as well with the addition of a high grade bronze or gold plated extrusion system. This new manufacturing option was first pioneered for a Twix promotion event, during which the build plate was replaced with a BBQ table. As that was a huge hit, VormVrij is currently looking into a commercialized version of food 3D printing, which should become available in the near future.

All in all, it seems as though the LUTUM ceramic 3D printer range is only becoming more professional and more potent with every new generation. Despite those changes, it is still built on open source electronics, and clay is still delivered using a 600cc direct screw-on cartridge system or with a larger vessel system that creates an 8 liter capacity. It’s a build that ensures that the LUTUM is an excellent addition to any (potter’s) workshop.

The following models are currently available:

  • LUTUM® mini 43x43x45 cm build volume (€4,495)
  • LUTUM® dual 40x40x45 cm build volume for dual color 3D printing (still experimental, €6,284)
  • LUTUM® MXL 43x43x78 cm build volume (the replacement for the LUTUM XL, €5,395)

For more info, check out the VormVrij 3D website.



Posted in 3D Printer



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