3D printing in and of itself is an art form that designers, architects, and hobbyists all have access to. While some use it for creating little trinkets and doodads, others prefer to create fully functional objects. Then there are the designers who opt to create unique artistic forms which could not be created by any other means. There is one small problem with this though; the majority of desktop 3D printers are only able to 3D print with plastic and plastic composite materials, meaning these artists are limited in exactly what they can do.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen new extruders come to market which add new materials such as clay, cake icing, and silicon to the mix. While the popularity of these extruders don’t come close to those of the plastic printing models, this doesn’t mean that printing in clays, ceramics and porcelain won’t catch on soon. At least one company, called WASP, believes that ceramic 3D printing is on the verge of becoming more mainstream.
Today WASP has informed 3DPrint.com that they have just unveiled the first professional extruder for ceramic materials, adaptable to other 3D printers. Called LDM (liquid deposit modeling), the new extruder can be hooked up to most 3D printers that are currently available on the market today, turning these once plastic-based fabricating machines into 3D printers that can print in ceramics, clay, alumni, zirconium, porcelain, and more.
“By launching this new product, the group aims to promote the printing of fluid-dense materials and advanced ceramics to the world,” Maurizio Andreoli of WASP tells 3DPrint.com this morning. “In two years of time and after experimenting [with] all the possible combinations of pressure, nozzles and materials WASP has created a model of extruder which is able to interrupt and restart the extrusion flow.”
The italian based company has been building and iterating upon various models of ceramic printers for quite some time. They have a goal of using their very large clay printing machines to 3D print housing for people in third world countries. We’ve covered numerous stories in the past of some really incredible projects that they have undertaken, most of which included 3D printing with clay. They are one most authoritative companies in the world when it comes to this type of 3D printing.
When most people think of clay based 3D printing, they picture objects coming off of the printer with huge layer heights, obviously giving away the fact that they have been 3D printed. When we typically print with plastics, the layer heights are so minute that sometimes you can’t even notice them unless you get really close. This new LDM WASP extruder amazingly has the ability to reach a level of precision that is very close to that of their plastic polymer counterparts. The new extruder combines the use of a screw extruder with that of a pressure extruder to provide results unlike anything we’ve seen before.
“With this technology it is possible to control with accuracy the flow of material and also to use retraction to interrupt deposition,” Andreoli explained.
The new extruder also features a bubble eliminating extrusion system that will reduce air bubbles in any mixture of material, as well as an extrusion control system that includes a very useful retraction option.
When purchasing the LDM, customers will get a package that includes the following products:
- A 3 liter tank
- An extrusion piston
- A stand for the tank
- A pressure reducer
- A return preventing valve
- A safety valve
- 1 kg of porcelain
- A cochlea and an interchangeable pressure chamber
- A high-couple stepper engine
- An SD card which contains the .stl file for the two models PowerWASP and DeltaWASP, assembling instructions and some videos for preparation of the mixtures.
- A 7 kg tank which can be substituted with a 15 kg version for larger prints.
The large tanks that the extruder uses can be cleaned and reused as much as you like.
“Inside, there is a piston with two 4 bar gaskets which pushes the material through the teflon pipe (diameter 12mm) which supplies the extruder,” Andreoli tells us. “The cap located on the back has a safety valve set at 8 bar. On the stand of the tank there is a pressure regulator and a return preventing valve. Inside the chamber, the material is funneled toward a screw which pushes it out producing a pressure of 40 bar without damaging the system. It would be impossible to reach such a pressure level with a common pressure extruder.”
The screw extrusion system also allows for the density of the printing material to be higher, thus reducing the time required for various ceramics to harden. This goes a long way in preventing a printed object from collapsing under its own weight. The LDM can be purchased for €650,00 ($706), and is available now.
What do you think about this new extruder? Is this something you would be interested in purchasing to add onto your current 3D printer? Discuss in the LDM WASP Extruder forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video below, of the extruder in action, as well as some additional photos.