Printing with Clay?
Among other things, we have been looking at getting started with clay printing on DIY 3d printers here on Project Silkworm. This is quite an exciting area for 3d printing because it relates to both the large and smaller scales of fabrication.
The attraction of clay printing is in its potential to print with materials that have a deeper association with craftsmanship and construction. One could imagine being able to print out pottery, sculptures and even bricks and larger scale pieces of construction:
Approaches to Paste Extrusion
The principles behind printing with clay are similar to fused deposition printing with plastic, the main difference is a lack of need to heat the material to make it and the method of pushing the material into the extruder chamber. The Rep Rap wiki page documents different ways of accomplishing this. The most straightforward methods seem to be variations on a plunger mechanism to push the clay out of the end of the nozzle. Unfortunately this method has some major drawbacks, not in the least the fact that the syringe has to be quite a few times larger than the object it is printing (depending on geometry).
A more economical method is to attach a pipe to a container of clay paste and pump the clay through the pipe into the nozzle. The main principles of printing with paste seem to be getting a consistent pressure acting on paste, pushing it out of the nozzle. Unfold Fab’s blog has some really good documentation of experiments for this method.
Examples you can try out yourself
The great thing about Rep Rap and derived systems is hack-ability You can see something interesting that someone else is doing, locate the files and try it out yourself (and print out most of the parts 🙂 ). I thought I would put together a series of examples that you can try out on your own machines and join in the development. Over the next few months we will be attempting to use Silkworm with some of these and try and push the development of new digital craft within a material long associated with craftsmanship: