3D Printing Ceramics

3D printed ceramic are in its experimental phase with more limitations than commonly used polymers.

Printing @ Shapeways:

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Shapeways’ production method is not exactly what has shown in the video. Rather, they 3D print the mold and have porcelain cast:

Cleaning excess powder from the 3D printed molds is our biggest limitation in manufacturing porcelain. The mold is an inverse of the product itself, where solids of the product are empty space. Laser sintering the mold leaves its interior full of loose powder. We carefully blow it out with compressed air through the flat base of the model, but tight cavities far from the base opening are hard or impossible to clean. This means that models which are complex and have multiple holes in walls or long wires become increasingly hard to print. If you need to troubleshoot, try making the model solid and based on a single “core”.

 Rules:

Max bounding box 125 × 125 × 200 mm
Min bounding box 40 × 40 × 10 mm
Min Wall & Wire Thickness 3.0 mm
Max Wall & Wire Thickness 50.0 mm
Min Detail 1.0 mm
Clearance 3.0 mm

Other Information:

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Denser Can Be Better

Unlike most of our other 3D printed materials, for which the cost depends on product volume, Porcelain is priced based on the surface area of the part. This means that often times, hollow parts are more expensive than solid parts, since they have greater surface area even if there is less volume. Thicker, denser parts are also easier to manufacture and ship, so they are more likely to be successful products.

Flat Bottoms

Large flat bottoms offer better access for cleaning and add stability in glaze firing. Flat bottoms can be removed in the mold and any defects are easily repaired. Models without flat bottoms need to be designed with consideration for how the model will sit in the kiln during firing.

Too Many Holes

Holes in the walls of models will generate connections between the inside and outside of the mold. These can be extremely difficult to separate, take apart and properly clean out.

Internal Overhangs

Hollow molds tend to make overhanging geometry inside of the model. These can prevent our tools from accessing the interior and cleaning it fully. Instead of fully hollow parts, consider making the model as solid as possible.

Wires and Complex Geometry

Long wires can turn into tunnels which can be difficult to airblast fully.

Weak Geometry

Some geometries with thin cantilevered walls and wires may easily break in production. Extended features should be short and well supported.

Details and Printing

Embossed and engraved details are limited by the resolution of the SLS printing along with the cleaning and casting process.

Glaze Access for Internal Surfaces

An internal surface, such as the inside of a tube or hollow cavity, can only be glazed if we can physically reach it. To ensure that the interior of a product is completely glazed, please make sure the cavity opening is at least 15mm in diameter. This is particularly important for products intended to hold water, such as vases. If the opening of a vase is under 15mm, the inside will not be fully glazed, and the vase will not be water tight.

Choosing a Glaze

The glazing of each model is done by hand with special attention by our inhouse ceramicists. Because the glaze is applied by people and not machines, the application of every model will be slightly different.

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