Are 3D-Printed Consumer Ceramics Finally Here?
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on January 12, 2018 | 2489 views

3D-printed performance ceramics have been available from a variety of photopolymer additive manufacturing (AM) platforms for some time, and there are even more on the horizon. 3D-printed consumer ceramics, however, are another story. Now, it seems as if that story may have reached a climax of sorts, as New York-based startup Kwambio has unveiled the Ceramo One ceramics 3D printer at International CES 2018.

The Ceramo One is the result of Kwambio’s research into 3D-printed ceramics, as a part of its design and fabrication marketplace. Typically, ceramic parts can be made with the help of a 3D-printed mold, which not only adds extra steps but also has the potential to increase costs and extend the production process.

As mentioned above, methods exist for 3D printing some ceramic materials. For instance, binder jetting, the method used for 3D Systems’ ColorJet Printing process, can print full-color gypsum parts. These parts, however, cannot be used for utilitarian purposes. Binder jetting is also used to 3D print sand parts, which serve industrial uses. 

In 2013, 3D Systems acquired a startup dedicated to 3D printing consumer ceramics with binder jet technology previously, in 2014, showcasing the CeraJet 3D printer at CES. However, the CeraJet, along with a number of other unique printers unveiled by the company, never made it to market.

There may still be a CeraJet project brewing at 3D Systems, but, after the CEO behind the consumer push left the company in 2015, its consumer division was shut down. As a result, we haven’t seen a consumer ceramics 3D printer available on the market.

To meet the goal of a technology capable of printing consumer ceramics directly, accurately and quickly, the company designed the Ceramo One prototype. Using the prototype, Kwambio launched a ceramics 3D printing factory in Ukraine with backing from the Techstars accelerator and angel investors.

At CES, Kwambio revealed the Ceramo One to the public. With a build volume of 35 x 35 x 38 cm, the Ceramo One is capable of printing 160 mm per second with 20 micron accuracy. Like objects made with the CeraJet, the Ceramo One can produce ceramics that can be glazed in a variety of colors. 

Objects 3D printed by the Ceramo One can be glazed in 100 colors with a variety of finishes. (Image courtesy of Kwambio.)
Objects 3D printed by the Ceramo One can be glazed in 100 colors with a variety of finishes. (Image courtesy of Kwambio.)

Kwambio’s color palette climbs into the range of 100 glazes, as well as matte, gloss and opaque finishes. Basically, any finish you might apply to a traditionally made ceramic pot can be applied to objects made with the Ceramo One. The machine can also create molds for casting metal parts.

While it’s exciting to see a 3D printer that can manufacture consumer ceramics be prepared for the market once again, I have since learned to hold my breath for exciting new technology. To have a better idea of what the Ceramo One is capable of, we should wait until it gets into the hands of users.

The machine is currently available for preorder at a price of $25,000. To learn more, visit the Kwambio website.

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