Ceramic 3D Printing - dummies

By Shaun Bryant

Ceramic 3D printing is done using specially designed 3D printers. The printers use ceramic powder, placed on a powder bed to build a model, layer by layer, from bottom to top. The ceramic powder is made up of miniscule, ultra-fine particles of alumina silica ceramic. Once finished, the 3D print is removed and placed in a drying oven. This drying process strengthens the 3D print, but it is still fragile. Once drying is completed, the model is fired as it would be traditionally in an oven, followed by a preglazing coating. It is then fired again, glazed, and put through the final firing, to set the glaze, just like traditional ceramics.

Ceramic 3D prints have good thermal properties, but the high melting point can be a challenge when 3D printing is involved. Ceramics, unlike metals and thermoplastics, do not easily fuse together when heat is applied to them. They can resist high temperatures of up to 600@@dgC (1112@@dgF) which means they are suitable for 3D printing different objects but can undergo various finishing processes like other materials.

Ceramic 3D printing creates objects that are expected to have superior qualities compared to their traditional counterparts. In addition to printing ceramic household objects, such as tableware and cooking utensils, scientific lab equipment with the ability to withstand high temperatures can also be 3D printed.

The Tinkercad materials guide states that ceramics, as a 3D printed material, are rigid and delicate and are often used to 3D print decorative items, such as homewares. When a ceramic 3D print is first printed, it is often a ceramic white, which is then glazed to give it color. Ceramics normally 3D print to about six layers per 1mm, with a 3mm minimum wall thickness. This figure shows some ceramic 3D prints from the Tinkercad materials guide.

tinkercad-ceramic
The Tinkercad materials guide for ceramic.