Ceramics such as clay have been used for both artistic and construction purposes for millennia. With the rise of 3D printing, it makes sense that people would want to try to print with ceramics. The simple answer is: yes, you can 3D print with ceramics. Unfortunately, you can’t just do so straight away with your standard 3D printer.
There are three current methods of printing ceramics: FDM, binder jetting, and SLA (and other resin printing variants). For the FDM method, you need to make several customizations. Clay and other ceramics typically use wider nozzles than most 3D printers to avoid clogging issues. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s not possible to create the same level of fine detail.
Binder jetting is a much more advanced 3D printing technique that is generally limited to industrial applications because of the cost of the printers. The technology relies on printing glue onto a powdered material. It is very similar to inkjet printing but with the added complexity of a third dimension. This method can create very finely detailed models.
There are several resins available that are marketed as ceramic resins. You print these resins as normal and then burn away the resin as you fire it in a kiln to leave behind the ceramic. Essentially the resin acts as a suspension agent for the ceramic material.
You need to post-process all 3D printed ceramics in the same way that you would process any other ceramic item. You will need to fire and glaze your models to achieve the appearance you’re aiming for.
Some other 3D printing processes also work with ceramics. These processes are all primarily industrial, however, due to the cost of machinery. Additionally, the types of ceramics used are technical and not the materials you would use to make a vase or kitchenware.
You absolutely can 3D print ceramics; the process is essentially the same as normal 3D printing. The post-processing stage, however, needs to include the traditional ceramic post-processing of firing and glazing. Have you tried or do you want to try 3D printing ceramics? Let us know what you’d print down below.