How to print with clay
Getting Started with clay printing
Clay 3D printing offers an unique way of working with natural materials while maintaining rigidity and creating products that are well-known and have clear sales channels. It can slo provide you with an easy start to working with paste-based extrusion and later move on or switch over to our regenerative materials. The Junai kits are extensively tested with Clay and will allow youi to easily switch over between different paste materials

Step 1: Pick your clay, to chamot or not to chamot

The first step is identifying the specific functions your clay needs to fulfill and what is easily available to you. Three key elements to consider are

Colour: as clay is a natural material with a wide range of colours. From greyish to red. This will affect your final product, even when you glaze over a majority of the product.

Structure and Chamot: The structure of the clay is an important element in the final feel of your product. A porcelain clay (which is mixed with other minerals) and a simple clay will give a widely different end result. We generally tend to work with clays that have 10-25% chamot content of 0-0.2mm (chamot are pre-fired ceramics that provide structure and reduce stickiness). For instance Georg & Schneider 354 clays work well for us.

Water content: As with any ceramic work the water content added to the clay makes the clay more pliable and easier to work with. Adding too much water however might cause significant cracking as you bake your product in a kiln. The amount of water to add differs per clay and you'l need to test it out for your own product and printer to see what works best

Earthenware is a  low-temperature firing. It is often characterized by a (deep) red color , when fired this type of clay often has a more rustic, rough look. This stems from the fact that the material is more porous and as a result less strong.
Stoneware is an often greyish clay that lightens when fired. It is fired at higher temperature and the final products are tough and quite non-porous. The finish is a smooth and distinguished look, this is why it is often used for the production of ceramic dinnerware
Procelain clay is arefined type of clay, used to make delicate ceramic products. It has a white, almost translucent appearance. Due to the density of the particles in this clay it can be used to make very fine delicate shapes. Is is generally more expensive than other types of clays
More information can be found at a great blog abouti clays here

Step 2: Designing for clay 3D printing

Clay and other paste-based 3D printing share many similarities, with one notable distinction: clay exhibits high consistency, rapid drying, and requires minimal water for malleability. This characteristic enables the creation of intricate shapes with ease and generally facilitates faster 3D printing processes. Here are key considerations for successful 3D printing with clay and pastes:

Design in Layers from the Ground Up:
Embrace a layer-by-layer approach when designing your 3D models. This method ensures stable construction and promotes optimal adhesion between layers during the printing process.

Incorporate Shrinkage in Your Design:
Account for the natural shrinkage that occurs during the drying and firing stages of clay. Design your models with this shrinkage in mind to achieve the intended final dimensions after the completion of the entire process.

Limit Overhangs:
Minimize overhangs in your designs to avoid structural challenges during the printing process. While clay is relatively stable, excessive overhangs may lead to sagging or distortion. Consider support structures or alternative design approaches to mitigate these issues.

Use sufficient water: Make sure the clay you are using is wet enough to push through the nozzle. It can also help to wet the sides of the container prior to you use to prevent the clay from sticking

Below some tips and tricks for slicing your model for clay and paste 3D printing

- Enlarge the model by 10-15% to correct for shrinking during firing
- Set a layer width to the size of your nozzle
- Set a layer height that is around 2 to 3 times smaller than the size of your nozzle
- Set the infill to 0%
- Setting a feed rate can be quite finicky and can vary a lot depending on  your materials slicer and printers. A good start might be 50% feed rate (on Cura) and and a .65 flow bridge rate (Prusa slice). If you are unsure you can always start with a base setting and take it from there.

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Step 3: Preparing and loading

To load up your material follow the following steps

Add Sufficient Water to the Mix: Begin by incorporating an adequate amount of water into your clay mixture. Achieving the right consistency is crucial for optimal 3D printing performance.

Eliminate Air Bubbles:
Take care to remove as many air bubbles as possible from the clay mixture. Air bubbles can disrupt the printing process and result in inconsistencies in the final print.

Load the Clay into the Cylinder:
Once you have the well-prepared clay mixture, load it carefully into the designated cylinder of the 3D printer. Ensure a smooth and uniform loading process to avoid any irregularities during printing.

Minimize Air During Loading:
Limit the introduction of air into the clay as you load it into the printer. This step is essential for maintaining the structural integrity of the printed layers and preventing potential issues during the printing process.

Load into the Printer:
With the clay properly loaded into the cylinder, proceed to load it into the 3D printer. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for your specific printer model to guarantee a seamless and successful printing operation.

Step 4: 3D printing

To get started with 3D printing follow the followingsteps

1. Ensure Smooth Extrusion: Test a smooth extrusion of clay from your container by either manually pushing it through or allowing your 3D printer to extrude material until it consistently comes out of the nozzle ready for your design.

2. Slice and Load Your Design File: Slice your design file and load it onto the 3D printer. Ensure that the file is properly prepared for printing, considering factors such as layer thickness and height. See our tips for slicing in Step 2

3. Initiate Printing and Focus on the First Layer: Start the printing process, paying close attention to the first layer. Ensure it is consistent and properly adhered. Adjust the bed level manually if the first layer is too high (drooping) or if there are issues like under-extrusion.

4. Monitor Consistent Extrusion: Keep an eye on the print periodically to confirm the continuous and consistent extrusion of clay. If the results are not as desired, adjust the feed rate or print speed accordingly. For first prints we suggest lowering the print speed for underextrusion and than consistenyl up the pressure and speed once you have a better sense of how hard your printer can poush the

5. **Adapt and Learn:**
  - Understand that clay 3D printing is a skill that develops over time. Embrace the learning curve, and do not hesitate to iterate and make adjustments. Familiarize yourself with the right consistency of the clay and how to optimize your 3D printer for the best results.If you're ready to embark on your clay 3D printing journey, explore our shop for modification kits and printers that cater to your specific needs. Happy printing!


Jasper Middendorp
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