Introduction to 3D Clay Printing | Hendrien Horn | Skillshare

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Introduction to 3D Clay Printing

teacher avatar Hendrien Horn, 3D Potter

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What is 3D Clay Printing?


    • 3.

      3D Design


    • 4.



    • 5.

      Creating a 3D Design


    • 6.

      Prepping your Design for Printing


    • 7.



    • 8.

      The Pottery Process


    • 9.

      Information Breakdown


    • 10.



    • 11.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Join Hendrien Horn as she takes you through the processes of what 3D Clay printing is and how it works.

Lessons cover

  • Walk-through of the 3D Clay Printing process
  • What you should be focussing on regardless of your skill level, so you are able to get started on your own.
  • Tips on pottery, software and equipment.

Creativity lies in what you enjoy doing and making

3D Clay printing allows for a huge scope of possibilities, be it business, artistic or enjoying it just as a hobby.

By the end, students are invited to do some digging and find some of the benefits of 3D Clay printing and how it relates to them. 

They can share some of their personal experiences and why they want to start or include how far along on their journey they are.

Become a 3D Maker and create your world!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Hendrien Horn

3D Potter



I was born southwards of the equator in a country jampacked full of culture and wildlife, South Africa. I am a 3D Designer, Illustrator and Potter.

My mission is to help show that anyone - even those who feel that they do not have a creative bone in their body can use 3D Software for idea generation and product design!



See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi there. My name is Hendrien and I'm a 3D Potter from Pretoria, South Africa. I create art using a Clay 3D printer and what I really enjoy most is watching the print take form. It is absolutely fascinating to watch, especially if you have designed yourself from start to finish. My mission is to help people think differently about the collaboration of pottery as a traditional art and also technology such as 3D clay printing and 3D design. I want to make it more accessible for people to understand and learn the skills that are needed to become a 3D Maker. They are so many possibilities when it comes to 3D clay printing. Perhaps you are an artist or creative looking for a different way to express yourself. Perhaps you are a business owner or an entrepreneur looking at a new venture to pursue, or move into, you may be a hobbyist and just looking for something new to craft and explore and to push your boundaries. Now the best part of creating is creating something from start to finish. If you are taking this class, you have an interest and desire to learn more about the process of 3D clay printing, what it may involve, and what areas you may need to focus on if you'd like to start on your own. I will help you by giving you a little bit of background on what 3D clay printing is, the process of printing. And also what is needed to get started. As this is an introductory class, you won't need to have any prior knowledge with regards to 3D clay printing and what it involves . For your project, you'll be doing a little bit of research with regards to what are some of the benefits of 3D clay printing and how do they relate to you? We're also going to be asking ourselves the question of, why do you want to start 3D clay printing? The reason we're doing this is because I have seen so many people give up before they've reached the end of the process. They feel that the learning curve may be too steep. They buy all the equipment and a few months later they have to sell everything. That is why we want to go through everything step-by-step so that we can understand the process and know where to begin and where we will be ending. And that is why we are asking the question why? Well, if you're ready, let's get to class. 2. What is 3D Clay Printing?: Simply put, 3D clay printing is an additive technique that involves building up your clay material in layers by using a 3D printer that has been modified to print your 3D design with clay. The process by which the printer prints is called the coiling method. Now pottery coiling is one of the oldest pottery techniques that there is. This is whereby you take a clay coil and build up your pot layer by layer. And isn't it interesting with all this new technology and innovation, we've gone back to the tried and tested method of coiling. Now there are many different types of 3D printers. What makes the clay printer different? Well, one of the biggest differences is that you don't need a mechanism to heat up your material, to melt it in order for it to print. Clay is a type of fine-grained natural material that can easily be shaped and molded when wet. So you don't need to heat it at all. And all you have to do is add water. Another part of your printer that doesn't have to be heated is your bed plate. This is the part where you're printing your 3D design. Once your item has been printed, it needs to be left to dry evenly. With clay, if it dries unevenly. For example, if there was a heated bed plate underneath and the bottom dried a lot faster than the top. This could actually lead to cracking. 3D clay printing allows for quite a lot of experimentation and innovation. You are able to print exceptionally detailed forms which you may not necessarily be able to create by hand. And this in itself is very exciting. Next, we're going to be looking at some of the skills and insights that you will need. 3. 3D Design: One of the first skills that you will need to conquer is how to 3D design using a CAD software. Now CAD is short for Computer Assisted Design. The CAD software is there to help you draw and create your designs. You don't have to have expert drawing skills or have an eye for art and form. If you learn the basics of the program, you'll be able to build on that. Think of it as a very advanced sketch tool. It is there to help you and to make your life a lot easier while you're creating your design in a 3D space. I personally use Autodesk Fusion 360. I find that it's a lot easier to navigate along with being one of the best there is. A big bonus is that it's free for hobbyists and for students. You will, however, have to go and see which program will work for you because we all have different needs. 4. Pottery: Making pottery is a beautiful and creative process. Clay, however, can have a mind of its own. I often tell people when they're starting out to maybe watch some tutorials or maybe join a pottery class so you can get a little bit more insight into the process. Now there are quite a few different types of clay, some of which include Stoneware clay, Terracotta clay, porcelain. Bearing in mind that you can fire them at different temperatures. So it's a good idea to know your clays. A really good tip is to remember that Clay has a memory. Once it's been fired in the kiln, it will come out and show you what it's remembered. For example, if you've accidentally bumped it, you may have perhaps overworked the clay or maybe you just touched it in the wrong place. This may lead to warping or cracking. So it's really good to understand and know what the pottery process is and what you need to do. Some of the basics are How to work with clay. How clay reacts to the environment, for example, whilst it's drying. And also what are the decorating and firing processes? A really good idea in the beginning is not to purchase all the materials and the equipment, for example, the kiln that you think you may need. Rather see if there's a pottery studio nearby or someone else who has some of the materials that you can use so that you can test and see what you want to do. Because with decorating there are so many different avenues that you can explore and until you find what works for you, you don't want to spend so much money and you also want to save on your electricity bill. Next, let's move onto what the process is of 3D clay printing. 5. Creating a 3D Design: Once you have selected which 3D design program you'd like to use to create your 3D prints. There are some factors that you need to consider. The first one is - How big is the buld plate of your printer? For example, at the bottom, I can print a width of 20 centimeters and my printer height can be 40 centimeters. This is something I need to bear in mind when I'm creating my print in the software. Another big consideration is to remember that you're working with clay. The shape that you create must be able to hold itself up because clay does not dry immediately. It dries over time. So either you need to put in supports when you're creating the print. Or your print needs to flow at such an angle that the clay will be able to support itself. This is one of the most important things to remember. Here is the design that I've created for printing. With the angles, everything should be able to hold the shape. The full understanding of how far you could possibly push the boundaries of your prints will only come from designing and testing over time. Once you have finished creating your 3D design and saving it, you will be exporting it as an STL file. I'll be explaining what this means in the next section. 6. Prepping your Design for Printing: The next step in the process is taking your STL file, which is a 3D drawing file, and importing that into a slicing software. Now I know there's a lot of lingo floating around right now, but let's have a look at what a slicing software is. The slicing software translates the 3D drawing file, the STL, into a language that a 3D printer can understand in order to print. This language is also called Gcode. Without Gcode, your printer would be unable to print. I am sure that there are quite a few pros out there that can write their own Gcode. I, however, am not one of them. I use Simplify3D for my slicing software. Unfortunately, it is not free. I do find however, that this software works a lot better with my Delta Wasp printer that I have purchased. So in Simplify3D, I'm going to import my design. I may just scale it down just a little. Next, I want to look at some settings for the print. Now I know there's a lot of information here, but don't get disheartened. I just want you to take note of some of the things you need to think about before you print. Firstly, we need to look at the nozzle diameter and I'll be using a three millimeter nozzle. Next, let's look at the layer height. I wanted a 1.5 millimeter layer. There we go. Next I'm going to look at Additions. Skirt outlines I want two. A skirt is simply just a layer of clay that the printer will print around your print. That is just to test your clay consistency and to see that everything is running smoothly. I usually do at least two skirts and approximately five centimeters away from my print. That's perfect. Next, I just want to go to speed. AT the moment it's set to 50 millimeters per second. I think I'm going to bring that down to 30, Okay. Now here I'm just gonna say Prepare print. Once it's done slicing or preparing the print, it's pretty much creating the paths for the 3D printer to follow. These paths are instructions for geometry, for the print. There are the two skirts that I've created. Now I can see, if I look here at the colors, my print should be good because it's going quite slowly. So I can actually adjust the speed when I'm printing and push the speed up a little because it's nowhere near the red. That's good. I'm just going to save this to my SD card. And we're pretty much ready to print. 7. Printing: There are quite a few different 3D printers that you can buy. You're even able to build your own if you use the open source information available on the web. Now when I started out, I did not possess the technical ability to build my own. So I bought one. The one that I purchased was a Delta Wasp 2040 clay printer. Let's dive into how the printing process works. Firstly, you need to prep your clay to make sure that it's the right consistency. If it's too dry it won't print because it won't be able to move through the piping. And if it's to wet, it will just end up a sticky mess and it won't be able to print and hold its shape. So it's about finding the right balance for you, which can only come from time and testing. The printer uses compressed air to push the clay through the pipes and the extruder. So you will need to have an air compressor. Once I've prepped my clay, put it in the container and attached it to my printer. I can now put my air compressor on and let the air pressure start to build in the tank. Your clay will then start moving through the pipe as the air starts to push the clay down into the extruder. Now I'll be inserting my SD card where I saved my file and making sure my printer settings are correct. I also need to set where my printer is going to start printing. So I'm quickly going to set that. In the resources I've called this Z Max because that's what it's called in my printer. Z equals height. Once everything is ready, go to your file and press Print. Now it's good practice to constantly monitor and check your print. You never know when something can go wrong. Sometimes there may be an air bubble and this could be quite catastrophic when it comes to your prints. I've had one that shot straight through a print before. Testing your 3D clay prints is, a very important part of the process. It can also be the most daunting part. What I started doing was to write down my settings each time I created a print. And this really helped me to see where I was going wrong and what I needed to change. I have included a sheet in the resources for you in order to show you what are some of the essential things you need to look out for and what you should be recording from the start. And hopefully this makes it a lot easier for you when you're starting out. 8. The Pottery Process: Once your print has finished printing, you need to leave it to dry evenly. Some potters prefer to put plastic over the print. Others just leave it to dry in a cool, dry place. So see what works best for you with regards to the print that you are creating. Once it is dry, you can choose what decorating techniques you would like to use. Some of these include carving and sculpting, painting with underglazes, painting with stains like oxides, glazing. And they are many, many more, but these are some of the most popular. But there are so many different techniques that you can use. A really good suggestion would be to create 3D mini testers. Test you're underglaze paints, test your stains, your oxides, your glazes, see what process works best for you. That is why it's also a really good idea to join a pottery studio or use someone else's materials and to experiment a little because in the beginning you might not necessarily know what your style is. A really good tip when it comes to glazing your pottery is to make sure that your item is not wet. If, for example, you've made a mistake, dipped it in the glaze and realized it looks wrong and you want to wipe it off, that's fine. Leave it to dry and then dip it in the glaze again, if you dip a part that is wet, the glaze may not stick to it and it may not come out as nicely, which means the color might not be as bright. 9. Information Breakdown: Once you have absorbed all of that information, Let's quickly break the process down step-by-step. Let's look at the software that we need. You need a 3D design CAD software. For example, I use Autodesk Fusion 360, and you also need a slicing software. As mentioned before, the one that I use is Simplify3D. Next, the pottery process. You need to know how to work with clay. What the right consistency is for the clay and the printer. Lastly, you need to know how to decorate your print along with firing in the kiln for the different stages. Next is equipment. You will obviously need a 3D clay printer. As mentioned, I'm using a Delta Wasp 2040 clay printer. You'll also need an air compressor. Mine is quite small. But depending on the size of your printer, you may need a bigger one. Now I know that seems like quite a lot of information. But start with the basics and build up from there. Don't go out and buy all of the equipment. Remember, this is a long-term investment. So whether you want to start with the pottery first or with the 3D design, at the end of the day, you have a long-term goal in mind. 10. Project: For your project, I'm going to ask you to do a little bit of research on the internet and find out what are some of the benefits of 3D printing and also how do they relate to you? For example, when I started out, I was only a potter. I had absolutely no technical ability at all. I however, sustained a chest injury whilst working on my pottery wheel. And I was exploring different avenues of creating my art. And that is how I found 3D clay printing. In that way, it helped me to create the things I'd like to make that I can't necessarily make on a pottery wheel anymore. Another big benefit for me is that clay is a material that I can reuse and recycle, so it's a lot more cost-effective. The next question I want you to answer is, why do you want to start 3D printing? For me itt was out of necessity. I had a pottery business, but I couldn't create pottery. And 3D clay printing helped solve that problem. You need to figure out the why for you. Because once the learning curve starts getting a little bit steeper, you need to answer that question for yourself. So you can motivate yourself to push through. Is it because you'd like to explore different creative avenues? You'd like to experiment and just try something new or like me, you'd like to start a business? Once you've answered these questions for yourself, you're welcome to share them with the class in the project folder. Now how you choose to do this is up to you. You can either create a post or take a photo of your brainstorm on a piece of paper. It's completely up to you. If you have already started on your journey and created some pottery works or created some 3D designs. You are welcome to take some photos and share them with the class. In the discussion section, I'd love to see some of your work. 11. Final Thoughts: 3D clay printing is still very much a niche and a lot of people are scared to start because they feel that the learning curve can be quite steep. Yes, I'm not going to lie to you. There is a lot that you need to learn if you're starting from scratch. But I promise you persistence pays off. If you put in the work, you will reap the rewards in the end. Good luck on your journey. If you would like to learn how to 3D design, you are welcome to go have a look at my Beginner's Guide to 3D Design in Fusion 360. It really helps you with regards to navigating the workspace and what are the fundamentals that you need to know to work within the software? I really look forward to some of your feedback with regards to the class. Or if you have any questions, please drop them in the discussion section. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope I've helped you get a better understanding about what 3D clay printing is all about. And I hope to leave you with one feeling. And that would be the feeling of being inspired to go out there and try something new. Thank you so much.