Following up on last week's amazing feat of printing mashed potatoes, the scientists at Bits From Bytes in Bristol have modified a RapMan 3D printer to use porcelain clay. In the brief experiment, they successfully printed a model head.
While clay seems like an obvious choice for an unusual 3D printing material, we're wondering a bit about this one. For millennia clay has been used to create all manner of shapes - and it's pretty easy to use. So why use a 3D printer to shape clay when you might be able to do it easily by hand? We see a couple of advantages.
First, you'd be able to reliably duplicate a precise shape, whereas that might be less possible with traditional techniques. Secondly, clay as a material has properties that other materials don't have that could be desirable depending on what you're printing. For example, a fired clay pot could be put in an oven without risk of melting, as ABS might be.
As with any new 3D printing material, it will be another capability ready to match up with your needs when the situation arises.