3D Printing Porcelain in Resin-- WHAT?!?!?

BACKGROUND

Some of you may be familiar with the traditional method of using 3D printing to create ceramic pieces, but for those of you who aren’t, I’ll give you a little background.

Some potters use these large, clay 3D printers to form more traditional styles of clay structures prior to firing. These are similar to FDM printers, but they force a soft clay, instead of heated plastic, out of a nozzle. These seem to be limited to larger, less defined model sizes, due to the large diameter of the nozzle. The clay is also very soft, so very detailed pottery seems to be very limited.

There has been enormous interest in 3D printing more finely detailed ceramic materials. It has many applications, including use in the defense and aerospace, bio-medical and technical industries and it’s known for its resistance to extremely high temperatures. Prior to 3D printing there wasn’t an easy way to create complex parts using ceramic material. This is because it is too porous and lacking in strength to maintain complex shapes. With the advent of 3D printing, a new process was developed which allowed for 3D printing with this unique material. This involves binding layers of ceramic powder, one layer at a time with a binding material, and then sintering it with a laser. The part is then carefully removed from the resulting box of powder and dried completely using a pre-firing process. After that, it’s put through the usual ceramic firing process to create the final object. That object can then be fired again at a higher temperature for glazing.

There are now resins that you can use at home for this process, but they are very expensive. Porcelite ceramic resin, by Tethon3D costs $275.00 per liter. According to their website, this resin is capable of printing at a thickness of 25 microns and it has an average of 14% shrinkage. After firing, you can use a commercial glaze to create objects that are food safe, microwave, oven, dishwasher and freezer safe. Tethon3D also makes a glass-ceramic resin called Vitrolite and it makes another resin called Castelite, which is a ceramic casting resin for making ceramic molds for metal casting. Another interesting resin they make is Mullite, specifically for the Bison 1000 DLP 3D printing platform. It costs about $250 per liter. They also make a wide-variety of interesting and expensive resins. Check out the link I’ve provided to their website in the description.

Shapeways, one of my favorite 3D printing services, used to offer a ceramic 3D printing service that used laser sintering, but they discontinued it. The process was labor intensive, expensive, and had slow-turnaround times. Not only was it not profitable, but it turned out to be too costly for customers and despite their best efforts, they could not contain the costs associated with the process.

PORCELINE-LIKE RESIN

If you’re interested in printing pieces that have a porcelain-like look and feel, but don’t require the investment in expensive equipment, try out EPAX’s porcelain-like resin. You can’t use it for food safe projects, but you could use it to make prototypes for porcelain pieces or other art projects. EPAX describes this resin as being hard and very low shrinkage. They say it’s a great alternative to dental model resin or where low shrinkage is preferred. This resin is great for printing skulls and bones, doll-heads, cameo-type jewelry, and other jewelry pieces.

EPAX’s porcelain-like resin has a fine ceramic powder mixed into it, so it has that fine porcelain feel to it. It’s dense as well, so it carries the convincing weight of a porcelain piece. With this resin, you get to skip the expensive kiln and still get that delicate porcelain look. The resin is for aesthetics only. It doesn’t have the other properties that porcelain has, such as heat resistance. I decided to test it anyway, and here you can see the result.

If you have the “tank clean” feature on your printer, it will come in handy here. The powder tends to settle to the bottom and it can be difficult to clean. It leaves a thick goo behind. Spills are more noticeable and the powder will leave a mess in your washing container or wash-and-cure station. By the way, here’s a pro tip on the tank clean feature: stick a piece of support structure from a previous print in the corner of the tank before going through the cleaning procedure. This makes it easy to pull the resulting resin sheet from the bottom of the tank. If you don’t want to filter the resin between prints, you don’t have to drain the tank before moving on to the next print. However, I prefer to filter between each print. You never know if you’ve got a fragment floating in the resin. Especially when you’re dealing with resin this thick. Fragments can cause damage to your screen. If they are left in the tank and get pressed between the build plate and the screen, they can crack the screen.

If you’re printing large, solid models, make sure you add more supports for the extra weight. My first print of this batman got too heavy and detached from the build plate half way through the print. For my second print, I hollowed it out and the print was still heavy, but it was light enough to successfully stick to the build plate.

I printed a few models on my EPAX-X1K and my Elegoo Saturn. Chitubox 1.8.1 already had the resin profile available under the X1-K machine settings. The same resin profile worked under the Saturn machine settings. The models looked great unpainted, but I decided to paint a few of them. For the first few, I decided to paint with watercolor and finish off with a spray clear coat finish. The paint took to the model well and the clear coat made the color stand out. This resin takes on acrylic paints well too, but I don’t think the look is different from standard resins with acrylic paint, so the cost may not be justified, but if you want the density, it’s definitely worth the it. On the plus side, priming is probably not necessary prior to painting these pieces with acrylic paints.

Another thing I really like about this resin is that it doesn’t have the irritating smell that other resins typically have. I barely noticed it and, after curing, I could not detect a smell at all. This resin is perfect for those of you who complain about being irritated by the smell of standard resins. 

I’m impressed with the results that I got from this EPAX porcelain-like resin and I highly recommend it.

Resources:

EPAX Porcelain-like Resin (paid link): ➤➤➤ https://amzn.to/304goow

Tethon3D: https://tethon3d.com/shop/

Shapeways: https://www.shapeways.com

3D Printers I use (paid links):

Elegoo Mars: https://amzn.to/2DVRPlO

Elegoo Mars Pro: https://amzn.to/30IkZ0M

EPAX X1: https://amzn.to/3is705j

Creality CR10-S: https://amzn.to/2DSUCfA

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