This story is, literally, stone age meets digital age: University of Washington researchers are combining the ancient art of ceramics and the new technology of 3-D printing. Along the way, they are making 3-D printing dramatically cheaper.
About five years ago, Mark Ganter, a UW mechanical engineering professor and longtime practitioner of 3-D printing, became frustrated with the high cost of commercial materials and began experimenting with his own formulas. He and his students gradually developed a home-brew approach, replacing a proprietary mix with artists’ ceramic powder blended with sugar and maltodextrin, a nutritional supplement. The results are printed in a recent issue of Ceramics Monthly. Co-authors are Duane Storti, UW associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Ben Utela, a former UW doctoral student.
“Normally these supplies cost $30 to $50 a pound. Our materials cost less than a dollar a pound,” said Ganter. He said he wants to distribute the free recipes in order to democratize 3-D printing and expand the range of printable objects.