New research shows how to modify your 3D printer so that it can make ceramics or food

There’s now a way to combine these skills and create something completely new. You will, however, need a 3D printer.

The 3D printer can print any object made from plastic quickly and in the shape that you want. There are still many things they can’t do. Up until now, you couldn’t 3D print pasta in the form of your child’s favorite cartoon character or make a football logo pizza. Our new research, which was published in Data in Brief, shows how to easily re-engineer a 3D printer so that it can create food or clay items.

In the past few years, 3D printers have moved from the realm of science fiction and research labs to the hands of hobbyists. This is because printers have become cheaper and easier to operate. Online, several competing brands offer 3D printer kits for less than PS300. Plastic filaments are also available for less PS20 per kilogram.

It’s easy to understand the workings of 3D printers, even though they may seem like complex, futuristic machines. The software that controls a 3D Printer slices a 3D picture into multiple 2D images. As instructed by the software, the printer “draws” the flat photos one on top of the other using molten ink. This pile of thin pieces becomes a solid.

To achieve an electric motor inside the printer forces the plastic filament through a nozzle that is heated to more than 200degC, melting it and forcing it out. The motor and nozzle of this printing head can be moved in three different directions: length, width, and height. This is because the engine and nozzle are mounted on separate motors, belts, pullies, and screws. A 3D printer is made up of a printing head, a movement setup, and a board that communicates with the computer.

How to print food

Imagine giving your friends custom-made coffee mugs or cakes made of clay. You will need a 3D printer that can use pastes, gels, or slurry materials instead of plastic filament. You can use clay or edible materials like jelly, dough, cheese, or jam as the pastes or gels.

This printer would have a “cartridge,” which is empty, to hold your feedstock. It also has a printhead that could “print” from this cartridge. These printers have been available for years. These are usually more costly than PS1,000. Who needs them when they can be made at home?

Our research has shown how to modify a 3D printer made of plastic so that it can print pastes and gels. The key to this is replacing the printhead that melts plastic with a “syringe-pump”, which is an arrangement that holds a standard plastic injection syringe while squeezing the feed material as required. The plastic syringe is used as the cartridge. The syringe is stored in a frame made of plastic. The motor is used to turn a screw which pushes down a nut, pushing the plunger of the syringe and forcing material out.

How do you make a syringe? This is where things get interesting. Before you modify your printer, you can 3D print it in plastic. Free-to-read scientific papers contain all 3D images required to print the parts and exact instructions on how to assemble them.

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