3D printing comes to ceramics

The 3D printing folks at Unfold Fab have managed to get their 3D printer to extrude a complicated volumetric form using ceramic for goop:

After some calibrating I decided to print a test design that would be hard to make using conventional techniques: a double walled vessel with fins connecting in- and outside. I was expecting mostly failure but it finished without to much trouble! Due to the restrictions of Skeinforge expecting 3d models, the walls are double filament (1.5mm total). As you can see on the Pleasant3d view there is an outer and inner shell and instead of a line connecting both there are o-loops. Testing a different design now that enables us to test a single filament double wall vessel. But in the end We will need a way to generate tool paths from single walled surfaces instead of solids
Unfold Fab: The future's here baby! (first successfully printed ceramic vessel) (via Beyond the Beyond)


  1. whatever you do, make sure there are no enclosed voids before you fire it… otherwise, the trapped air will cause it to explode in the kiln.

  2. Someone wake me when I can order my double-walled ceramic coffee mug.

    Why does boingboing log me out between individual posts, when I haven’t closed my browser? :boggle:

  3. It still has a bit to go, but this is a positive step, especially since this wasn’t even expected to succeed. Might be a bit before everyone starts being able to do it, but its progress. Might only be a few years before we can think of printing out snap together electronics at home.

  4. It is coming, and it scares the hell out of the world of manufacturing. Everyone I speak to is afraid that China has all of the manufacturing for household items, but when this hits that advantage is gone… forever.

  5. It does look impressive, but I would imagine that firing it has to be done very carefully. What would you use it for?

    1. This looks like a crucible for microwave or induction melting of metals. The double wall could serve as a decent insulation against heat losses from the crucible.

  6. In a decade’s time I hope to place an order for an oversized ceramic knife with a hollow cavity inside for use as an alcohol flask. Sneak alcohol onto a plane and hijack it with the same instrument.

    Then, truly, it will be the future.

    1. In a decade’s time you may be able to download illegal weaponry and print it out in your own home. It’s a fact that will scare the hell out of many but it is something that we will have to face with confidence.

      When tabloids start printing headlines like “9 YEAR OLD DOWNLOADS GLOCK KILLS SISTER” we need a good answer because this is too valuable to lose to the Milktoast Nation of a previous post.

      1. We just have to proliferate the technology faster than it could be stopped. Do you think we’d have the Net with all the power it gives us if it did not became the status quo faster than the Powers That Be could realize what is happening?

      2. I just realized that Dutch RepRappers can download and print illegal weaponry today. A guy from Belgium has put up a slingshot design on Thingiverse, and those are technically illegal under Dutch law.

        The future is here.

  7. Objet Geometries has just announced an extension to its trade-in program. They’re offering up to $80,000 credit for an older Objet 3D printer as a trade-in when buying one of their Connex multi-material 3D printers or a newer Eden machine. And, they’re offering some incentives for trade-ins of non-Objet 3D printers. Worth checking it all out – http://www.objet.com.

  8. I have a question for all the 3D printing aficionados out there.

    I notice that in most cases of the cheaper kit printers or open source powered printing projects, there is often a lot of extra ‘jaggies’ around the edges of each sliced extruded layer. Is this meant to be smoothed out by hand later via sanding, etc.?

    So many of the websites out there for these projects have tons of great videos of the process and the building of the contraptions, but not too much for the polishing steps.

    (unless maybe I’m looking in the wrong place)

    1. Thanks! I’ve been toying with buying a kit for the last few months, but I’m still trying to get a better idea of the capabilities of each project before I make the plunge.

  9. Wow. Tickling my gear lobe. One could make lost-wax castings for custom engine blocks pretty easily! That’s cool!

  10. BTW, in reference to an earlier post, they already sell double walled ceramic coffee cups, as well as double walled glass ones.

  11. In college I worked for a small, local rapid prototyping shop. We had several different technologies (FDM, Thermojet, SLA, zcorp 3d printing, etc…). One of the machines was a LOM modified to handle custom ceramic sheets. We developed it for a DOD research project. We were able to successfully create laminated objects in any custom ceramic and fire it with a high degree of success. We also did short run ceramic injection molding with soft tooling. I’m glad to see someone else continuing this research. Such great potential!

  12. Hi all,

    Thanks for all the reactions and emails!

    Just a quick follow up, I will post something longer on our blog soon.

    @manicbassman, LaughingLemon: The tests came back from the kiln today and all came out perfect! No need for any special firing curve or anything.

    @pechota: Size isn’t everything ;)

    @#17, Super_sling : YES! And we never intended to say that this is the first use of Rapid prototyping in ceramics, just that it was OUR first ‘useful’ vessel object after lots of useless test objects. We are very aware of all the research in this area and our next post was planned to be about ao. Ganters work at the University of Washington and how it compares to what we want to archive. The guys actually beat us and posted about our work first which is a great honor. http://open3dp.me.washington.edu/

    @tsm_sf: TRUE!, but that’s solved now.

    @JonHart: Cool! Is that published somewhere? We also did some tests some time ago with laser cut green sheet laminated by hand.

  13. Before “we” get into a you did it first, no he did it first. Please just consider the USPO 5204055 & 5387380. Check Sach/Cima circa 1990. Ceramics were some of the first materials 3DP’d in Sachs’ Lab. As for layer compaction (via vibration), done before too see the same patents.

    Congrats to you at UnFold.be! You’ve adapted an available system to make 3D ceramic objects! Thank you. I hope that you are willing to continue to share a little more of the “how” so other people can play. I have two systems ready to be modified to print clay. Please keep up the great work.

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