The PotterBot V4.5 Succeeds Through Simplicity

By on August 17th, 2016 in printer

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 The PotterBot V4.5 ceramic 3D printer
The PotterBot V4.5 ceramic 3D printer

3D Potter announced a new ceramic 3D printer, the PotterBot V4.5, whose new extrusion mechanism is fantastically simpler. 

There aren’t a lot of ceramic 3D printers on the market compared to plastic printing options, but most of them use an air-powered syringe mechanism to squirt out sloppy wet clay. But the PotterBot V4.5 has a very different approach. 

Instead of using the common noisy air compressor approach, they’ve opted for a “direct extrusion” ram mechanism. Essentially there is a large piston filled with “slightly diluted” clay. The piston slowly pushes the clay mixture directly out a 10.00mm nozzle below. There are other nozzle options available up to 16mm in size to match printing and speed requirements. 

 The 5,500ml cartridge for ceramic material on the PotterBot V4.5
The 5,500ml cartridge for ceramic material on the PotterBot V4.5

The ram-piston arrangement on the PotterBot V4.5 can hold up to 22lbs (10kg) of clay (5,500ml), meaning you can print single objects up to that weight. There doesn’t seem to be a way to print more than a single piston’s worth of clay in this machine – at least not yet. I suspect it may be possible through software to pause the PotterBot in mid print so that you can swap or quickly refill the piston. 

The machine is ridiculously simple in design: a stepper motor pushes the piston at a desired rate, while the print surface moves in the X and Y directions as required. 

There’s a very nice touch screen interface, setting this machine  apart from experimental ceramic 3D printer. 

 The PotterBot V4.5 laying down some clay
The PotterBot V4.5 laying down some clay

Curiously, there appears to be casters underneath the moving print surface to support the wide width of the printing area. However, in the videos from 3D Potter, it seems that the PotterBot V4.5 offers only a small circular area for printing in spite of this wide carriage. Perhaps they’ll offer a way to print wide as well? 

Other syringe-based 3D printers are often used to extrude pasty foods, like peanut butter, chocolate or dough. That’s also possible with the PotterBot V4.5, as the components are indeed foodsafe. However, you’ll have to be careful with your designs as the engineering properties of food pastes are not quite the same as clay or plastic. 

It appears they’ve optimized the PotterBot V4.5 for tall printing, as it can print up to 24” (610mm) and evidently can be expanded up to 36” (914mm). That’s sufficiently tall to produce a reasonably-sized vase, which I presume is the primary purpose of this machine. 

The PotterBot V4.5 is available now and is priced at USD$7,800. It’s a high price, but where else can you print nearly 1.0m ceramic vases? 

Via 3D Potter

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!