Homemade 3D printer goop made from maltodextrin costs 1/50 of the real stuff

A University of Washington engineering professor has come up with a new goop for his 3D printer that costs 1/30 - 1/50 of the authorized goop, using a mix of clay, sugar and nutritional supplements, then open sourced their formula. Basically, these guys are the inkjet cartridge refillers of the 3D era:
About five years ago, Mark Ganter, a UW mechanical engineering professor and longtime practitioner of 3-D printing, became frustrated with the high cost of commercial materials and began experimenting with his own formulas. He and his students gradually developed a home-brew approach, replacing a proprietary mix with artists' ceramic powder blended with sugar and maltodextrin, a nutritional supplement. The results are printed in a recent issue of Ceramics Monthly. Co-authors are Duane Storti, UW associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Ben Utela, a former UW doctoral student.

"Normally these supplies cost $30 to $50 a pound. Our materials cost less than a dollar a pound," said Ganter. He said he wants to distribute the free recipes in order to democratize 3-D printing and expand the range of printable objects.

Glitzy three-dimensional printers have become common in the industrial world, churning out fast 3-D prototypes of everything from airplane parts to running shoes. But the machines also are becoming popular among artists, hobbyists and educational institutions.

3-D Printing Hits Rock-bottom Prices With Homemade Ceramics Mix


  1. This is like the Gutenberg moment for 3-D printing! Now, there is a reason for an Artist to want to have one. I have fantasized about 3-d printers for a decade, but it is these types of secret recipes that make purchasing one for ‘civilian’ purposes prohibitively expensive!

    Watch out Ebay!

  2. Would this work in a RepRap? I’d rather fight a self-replicating ceramic machines in the future than a metal one.

  3. RepRap uses thermoplastic rods – depending on how high up the chain of supply you can buy them, they’re pretty cheap already.

  4. I can’t wait for the day when I have a $300 3D printer sitting on my desk. The refills will still cost $99, I’m sure, but it’ll still be awesome.

  5. Sounds biodegradable too.

    Wonder if you could substitute some sort of dough instead of clay. Sugary, edible, everythings!

  6. Combine with a line laser and the free (as in beer, not speech, unfortunately) David Laser Scanner software for a complete low budget 3d scanning and printing solution!

    [no relation, just think it’s a cool scanner thingy]

  7. I foresee companies attempting to make it very difficult for us to implement this idea. Although, I don’t think they’ve been very successful with blocking independent toner refill sales on ebay.

  8. Maltodextrin is not a “nutritional supplement”, it’s a food additive. It’ an MSG product, and it can cause a reaction if you’re sensitive to MSG or glutens.

  9. Thank you so much for writing “costs 1/50″ instead the far more common, but erroneous, “50 times less”.

    That’s one of my pet peeves.

  10. @10 Thanks for the link to the article. I haven’t gotten Ceramics Monthly in several years, not having time to work with clay anymore, but this has me itching to get back into it.

    The rough appearance could be a design feature (they *could* smooth it out somewhat) or it could be partially due to the choice of clay body. Terra Cotta (the second photo) is always rougher than a more refined clay like porcelain. It fires to a lower temperature and is porous enough that it will never hold water on its own. To get a cohesive pot the clay portion of their mix is not just “clay”, but a a combo of probably 5 ingredients, hence the RedArt. Most potters don’t make their own clay body. Another option is a natural clay (like something dug out of the local riverbed) that happens to fire to the appropriate temp. Many natural clays still need additives to come to temperature.

    I would wonder about the weight of the pieces and the density of the clay. When you are making a pot, whether extruding it, hand building, or throwing it, you are actively compressing and smoothing the clay particles as you work. I don’t know all that much about objects created with 3D printing, but I imagine the printer almost gently setting layer upon layer, and that cohesion is due to the binding agents. I don’t doubt that it would stay together if they had the right clay composition, but it must be rather light weight.

    If one was going for a really light weight 3D printed ceramic object they could try using paperclay. Paperclay is about 25% paper (usually toilet paper dissolved in water and blended) with 75% slurried clay body. It turns out lighter and stronger (at least when it is in a greenware state). You could dry that mix out and add the binding agent… Of course technology and clay dust aren’t happy companions, so…

  11. can the print heads handle multiple feed types? Say a “white substance” powder for the bulk of the object and and a “odor proof” sealant layer on the outside? Also, are there explosives stable enough to 3D print with? Merely speculating. Though that would certainly simplify making custom shaped-charges. I suppose you could print with virus particles too for that matter.

  12. Thanks for the great comments and excitement. We are continuing to work on this project. We have about 10 different clay-bodies that are printable plus other materials (including just plain sugar). We have thought about paper-clay bodies (just not enough time to try everything)!

    The objects are porous after printing and quite light. After firing, the objects can range from almost fully dense to quite porous. Yes, this means the objects shrink in firing (maybe 20%). We can infiltrate them with a variety of compounds from glasses to terra sigillata. The resulting objects take glaze nicely.

    Yes, they have a distinct texture that is characteristic of 3D printing. It is part of the process. Typical printer resolution is about 300 DPI and the layers are about 0.004″.

    Mark Ganter

  13. “Maltodextrin is not a ‘nutritional supplement’, it’s a food additive. It’ an MSG product, and it can cause a reaction if you’re sensitive to MSG or glutens.”

    This is incorrect. Both are white powders, but that is where their similarity ends.

    I personally use Maltodextrin as a nutritional supplement. It is used to give you energy during and post workout, and is a healthier alternative to sugar for this purpose as well as in foods.

    MSG is Monosodium glutamate. This is used to enhance the flavor of foods and is suspected to cause cancer.

    Please run a google search before spreading ‘facts’.

  14. “Maltodextrin is not a “nutritional supplement”, it’s a food additive. It’ an MSG product, and it can cause a reaction if you’re sensitive to MSG or glutens.”

    It must take effort to come off so inaccurately. It is BOTH a food additive and used for sports nutrition. MSG allergies/sensitivities are as accurate and real as WiFi allergies. Stop eating shitty fast food with incredibly high salt content and you’ll stop getting headaches.

    “MSG is Monosodium glutamate. This is used to enhance the flavor of foods and is suspected to cause cancer.”

    Not by actual medical science it’s not.

  15. What kind of printer are they using for their material? It sounds like an SLA, perhaps like a ZCorp or variant?

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