Frequently Asked Questions

DEMONSTRATIONS & HOW TO ORDER

Without doubt, the Claybot team wish you to be completely at ease with how Claybot is going to work in your environment and how it is going to energise your students.

Claybot is a product in demand and depending on the point in the academic year may have a delivery lead-time of between 2-6 months.

We understand an educational establishment works on an annual budget cycle and demands proposals that must demonstrate huge value to their community. Our 3D Print in Clay – Pros & Cons PDF may help in this regard. It is drawn from the experience of users in educational environments.

Claybot guide

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CLAYBOT PRICING

Claybot is virtually an out-of-the-box piece of equipment. Usually it is delivered to you by one of the Claybot team and they will install, set-up and test print for you.

Your Claybot is delivered with 5 x 4kg primary tank cartridges filled with Stoneware clay and 2 x 4kg cartridges of Porcelain clay. You will also receive a minimum 2 hours of on-site set-up and training.

Price: £ 2970

Monthly financing is available for one or more Claybots purchased.

Delivery to overseas customers by international courier will be supported with a series of face-time /webinar sessions to help you through the initial stages if required.

Clays and parts

4kg Clay cartridge – Stoneware Clay £ 8 ea. (includes delivery as part of a bundle of 6)

4kg Clay cartridge – Porcelain Clay £ 12 ea. (includes delivery as part of a bundle of 6)

Choose any combination to make a bundle of 6 cartridges.

{Order here / tel: 0808 178 9869; customersupport@claybot.co.uk}

 

You may choose to refill your cartridges with your own clay supplies. But please be aware of the time and risk this places on your shoulders. Refilling cartridges is time consuming – and should your clay be ill-prepared, operation of your Claybot may be compromised.

 

Our cartridge swap-out service is for multiples of 6 cartridges – 6 delivered in, 6 taken away.

Please retain your packaging boxes if possible to aid you in this service.

Upgrades and Spare parts (out of warranty period)

Clay Cartridge (82mm ID x 460mm inc. end caps) £ 42.50

Print-head Auger (plastic) £ 12.50

Primary extruder motor & gear £ 235

Print-head motor £ 87.50

3.25” or 82mm Pugmill-Cartridge Adapter £ 65

Additional Printing Bats - £7.50 each

HARDWARE DETAILS

What materials are used in the Claybot?

Aluminium and chrome are used for the moving parts and support rails of Claybot.

Steel and 3d printed PLA make for brackets and holding clamps.

The 220mm diameter printer bats are made from moisture-resistant ply. This material is best for 3d clay object adhesion, is water-proof yet porous and so releases objects easily. You can make your own bats to this template or purchase additional ones from us.

Claybot cartridges are made from 4mm walled clear-acrylic with white PVC end-caps.

What current / voltage does it run on?

The printer uses a standard Power Supply Unit and works with mains voltage supply of either 110 or 240V at 50-60Hz. This is used to drive two stepper motors, running at 12V and 36V respectively. They draw a current below 4A.

Two standard power sockets are required in close proximity to your Claybot.

What else do I need on-site to operate Claybot successfully?

Not much !

Most of your infrastructure requirement will depend on your intended Claybot application(s) [see ‘How Claybot works for Educators’]

Access to a potters kiln the size of your build volume if you wish to bisque and glaze fire.

In addition, if you plan to refill your own cartridges you will need a pugmill and some time for preparation.

A greenware drying area is also required –its size depending on the planned throughput you expect to achieve.

There is NO need for compressed air, 3 phase electricity supply or special ventilation.

Is your hardware/firmware opensource?

Claybot has been designed to offer optimum capability for its constituent parts.

In essence, it is a machine of parts which can be adjusted or swapped out for other parts. But the interaction between drivers, motors, firmware and software is sensitive. That inevitably means should customers choose to dabble with their Claybot’s design and part specification, their warranty will be invalidated.

The Claybot CPU is designed around Arduino Mega and Uno R3 boards.

Controlling the variable which is Clay

The standard mixes of stoneware and porcelain clays should be suitable for all object sizes printed within the Claybot envelope. These reach a maximum height of approx. 300mm and diameter 200mm.

Where the danger of drooping under gravity is a possibility (due to design overhang) the effect can be marginally reduced by artificially drying the printed object as it emerges. Future Claybot versions are planned to have flexible, orientable fans for this purpose. But any air-drying jet focused just below the current printing layer will suffice. Move as necessary as your object becomes larger.


A harder, less plastic clay mix gives better wet strength but increased friction in the extruder systems. This may result in inconsistent clay delivery at the print-head.

3d Clay build platforms

Printing bats supplied with your Claybot are made from moisture-resistant plywood. They are porous so your objects will release easily from the surface as they absorb water from the clay.

Bats will last almost indefinitely if well maintained. For best results, sponge a little water onto dry, porous bats before use. Clay should be sponged off before it dries to avoid dust. Store bats on edge to avoid trapping moisture.

You can use your own bats which will need securing to the Claybot baseplate using the pin locators and/or squashing marble-sized clay pieces around the edges. Plastic bats are nonporous and waterproof , so they will require wire-off for your objects. Plywood is a durable bat material but must be exterior- or marine-grade to avoid delaminating.

Is there a maintenance schedule?

Every Claybot is supplied with a maintenance chart and checklist to follow.
But in short, it is simply a good habit to clean your Claybot at the end of each printing day in preparation for its next use.

It is also advisable to back off the pressure from the plunger at the end of the day (see Control Tablet interface) or before storage for a day or two.

Clay should never be left open-to-the-air at the print-head and primary tank connection points.

It is acceptable to leave part-full primary cartridges in place for a day or two if not under plunger pressure – but it is advisable to consider removing completely from your Claybot and storing it horizontally to maintain clay consistency as best as possible.

Use a damp cloth to remove clay and water seepage from the base, triangular plates and and rails. 

Motor drive belts should be checked every 4 weeks for signs of wear and that belt tightness has not deteriorated.

The Delta arm supports and extruder guide rails should be first cleaned with a damp cloth, followed by a clean, dry cloth and finally greasing of the joints with petroleum based grease.

Warranty Cover

Claybot comes with 12 months warranty on parts - excluding consumables.

We do not cover damage from electrical surges or accidental damage due to physical force or excessive heat.

Seizures caused by lack of routine cleaning and lubrication may be recoverable using our 6-step Recovery Protocol. But no guarantee is offered as to the outcome and parts may need replacing at the customer’s expense.

But no guarantee is offered as to the outcome and parts may need replacing at the customer’s expense.

Damages to the touch screen caused either by excessive force or corruption of the firmware are not covered under our warranty.

You will find a more comprehensive description about coverage in the Terms of Sale you receive with our pro-forma, invoice or quote.

GENERAL OPERATION & TROUBLESHOOTING

Claybot is designed to be as trouble-free as possible in the conditions normally present in an educational environment. But printing with clay has the feel of art-meets-science.

Clay and people introduce variables which can sometimes be difficult to control or predict.

If your issue is not covered in the list below, just email us for extra help: customersupport@claybot.co.uk

Is there a video I can watch on how to set-up my Claybot?

Yes – we have a video here.

The clay cartridge plunger is not moving

If this is the first time you are using the printer, check the cables to the base motor.


If you have just cleaned your Claybot check if clay or other particles have crept between the cable connector.


If that does not solve the issue make sure the cables are connected in the correct slots.


Remove primary cartridge and check clay has not hardened over time and become impossible to push.

My print-head auger is not turning smoothly

Clay is very abrasive. When it dries it will turn hard like stone.

The top part of your Auger has a smooth shaft which acts as a seal in its housing. If dried Clay congregates in this area then auger rotation will likely be impeded. In addition to the prescribed maintenance routine – and depending on the hardness of the clay you are trying to extrude – you may find spraying the housing (where the auger meets the stepper motor connection) with WD40 helps to keep the equipment free from clay build-up.

Does the print-head auger turn when the print-head is removed from the machine?


If not, it is likely hardened clay has accumulated in the auger chamber and it will need cleaning out with water and brushing.

Achieving a solid bottom layer

When you are printing an object that needs a solid base it is best to print the base layer. It should be part of your 3d-model although the 3d-Slicer programmes make adding a base an option for you.

A solid base can be added post-print (hand-work or casting). But care must be taken to use clay of the same mix and wetness to avoid differential shrinkage cracking where the base joins the walls of your 3d-object.

My print layers are not lining up properly.

Initial advice is to print more slowly. While it’s possible to print up to 50mm/sec, the mass inertia of the print-head can cause print problems where there are sharp angles and breaks in the design.

Only rounded or organic shaped forms without infill can be printed at fast speeds. We always recommend to start slowly and gradually increase speeds. Remember to lower the speed gradually again as the print nears its end point for a neat finish.

The print-head is not moving smoothly (or at all)

Check the tensions of the 3 belts. If any are slack, a tooth may miss and cause your print to shift. Remove the belt tensioning spring-clip and then Uncouple one end of the belt from the carrier slide.  Replace the plastic cable tie whilst pulling the belt taught over its housing on the slide. (Compare to the other slides if in doubt).  Finally, re-attach the tensioning spring just below the carrier slide.

Check the Teflon tube is not fouling belts or deltabot arms and reposition away from rubbing parts.

If a stepper motor has seized, it may need replacing. Turn machine fully on/off - Deltabot arms should meet their respective end-stops if steppers are ok.

How do I clean and service my print-head extruder?

Follow these steps to fully service your extruder. (see video). If clay build-up or a small hardened-lumps are the problem, then water immersion along with a suitably sized brush should be all that is needed. Oil with WD40 and grease the moving parts as you reassemble.

For times when the print-head extruder is completely stuck, disconnect the print-head from your Claybot and lower it into a glass with water. Make sure the upper half of the auger clamp and the motor above are not submerged. Leave it to soak for about an hour. If that does not work follow the steps to dismantle the extruder for cleaning.

The Primary extruder stutters or halts randomly!

There are multiple reasons this may occur but at root, clay hardening & cleanliness in the extrusion system is the problem.
See this video for cleaning instructions for the complete primary cartridge and print-head extrusion system.

It is possible the primary plunger is getting stuck inside the clay cartridge tube. This is usually when clay has hardened in the tube under compression or time. Occasionally, excess clay may settle between the O-rings, hardens and causes drag between the plunger sides and the tube sidewalls. The plunger can be removed by reducing piston pressure, then loosening off the centre bolt-head sufficient for the O-ring seal to be released. Remove the plunger from the cartridge through the threaded end-cap, keeping its 3 parts together. Soak and clean with water before reversing the procedure when re-inserting.

Excess clay may also get drawn into the lead-screw housing and eventually settle in the lead-screw end-bearing. Clay inevitably dries out over time and hardens like stone - causing disruption to moving parts. Preventative maintenance such as cleaning and greasing the plunger push rods will minimize this problem.

The primary cartridge motor is designed to have plenty of torque at low speeds. The design of the Claybot, with a primary and print-head extruder, helps reduce inertia of the printed clay at the point of delivery. This allows better control of start-stop sequences in some 3d-clay models. However, if start-stop sequences are resulting in odd print output it may be better to revisit the sliced GCode of the model. For example, perhaps a different layer thickness will give cleaner breaks or when combined with a slower printing speed.

The primary cartridge motor in your Claybot has plenty of spare torque capacity to get the plunger system moving again in normal operating conditions. But if the clay is too hard, friction throughout the pipework and in the auger flutes may cause one or both motors to stutter or stall.
But note, if the clay is too soft, excess clay can ooze from the tip of the auger. This is a momentum effect which occurs after the motors have ceased stepping.

I moved my Claybot and now it does not work properly?

Check the cable connections into the frame-mounted controllers and tablet.

What materials can I print with?

Whilst we recommend to print with stoneware clay to begin with, you can print virtually all clay types as long as they are smooth and without large grog particles or fibres.

The Claybot ‘Viscosity test’ is a simple method to check that your clay body has the correct softness and is plastic enough to print with. Fill a 200ml plastic syringe with a small amount of your clay mix. Place the syringe plunger on a weighing scale with the syringe pointing upwards. Push downwards until the clay mix just begins to ooze from the exit nozzle. The reading on the scales should be in the range 2400-2600 grammes of force to be an acceptable viscosity. If not, add in more water and thoroughly mix as necessary.

What happens if my cartridge runs out of clay mid-print?

If the Primary plunger reaches its end-stop your Claybot will also stop.

Using your Control Tablet, return the plunger to its base position.

Then, simply unscrew your cartridge and replace with a full one.

Re-apply pressure to the new plunger until clay starts to ooze from the end of the teflon tube.

Restart your print - unfortunately from the beginning. It makes sense to check you have enough clay in the cartridge to complete a print entirely.

Is there any pre- or post-processing possible?

All Pre- and Post-processing can follow standard pottery processes. After printing you can still shape or work the clay like any conventionally produced work.

Object parts such as handles and unsupported sections you left-out of your 3d model may be better added using slip and hand-moulding at the most appropriate point in the greenware drying process.

Fine pattern details, carving and sculpting can be carried out in traditional ways on your 3d printed pieces.

How fast can I print?

Print-speed depends on many variables:

  • the type of clay you use.
  • the softness (viscosity) of the clay. 
  • layer width and height you choose.
  • the design of the print.

Recommended print-speeds are between 20 and 30 mm per second for any layer height or nozzle width. 50mm/sec can work well for the 'Spiral' print setting.  Certain objects, particularly larger ones, may benefit from assisted fan-drying. This helps part-solidify the walled layers in order to support the weight above them.

Our community videos give you an indication of what to expect and where to be surprised.

What is the precision / resolution of the Claybot?

A good rule of thumb is to use a ratio of 1 to 2 : e.g. lay down a 1.25mm layer height with a 2.5mm nozzle. 

Very fine and soft clay can be printed as fine as 0.5mm layer when using a 1mm nozzle.

For larger 4-6 mm nozzles, better results are achieved with layer heights between 2 and 3mm.

The range of options to experiment with is wide. The control of print-head speed is another important variable which can alter prints. You may prefer designs and speeds which allow the clay to deform in different ways. And the opportunity to introduce outside forces like sound adds a further dimension.

Thick, multi-layered walls are not recommended unless some heavy, post-print processing (like sculpting) is planned.

Is it safe to print with clay?

Printing with clay is safe. There is no difference to the clay you 3d-print and the material used in any conventional pottery. But safe operation still demands sensible practices regarding clay dust, possible skin irritation and wiping things in your eyes.

My issue is not listed!

Please send an email with your question to: customersupport@claybot.co.uk

CLAYBOT TRAINING & SUPPORT

Installation Day

We will personally deliver your Claybot anywhere in the UK and combine that with a brief workshop.
After assembling and calibrating the printer, we will show you how to prepare, run and fine tune the printer for different shapes. If necessary we also give a short introduction on how to design and prepare your 3d object files for successful prints. 

Individual or Cluster Workshops

We bring a demo printer, set it up in your preferred location and show you how to run and fine-tune the printer for different shapes. Where requested we will also give you a short introduction on how to approach your 3d-modelling and prepare your file into GCode for printing by Claybot.

Price on application – depending on location but guideline price is £350.

Overseas deliveries & support

Claybot is an out-of-the-box product save some initial checks and calibration tests. We can ship anywhere in the world once we have the voltage/current specifications of your local electricity supply.

We can travel to supply workshops and/or training but we would recommend that face-time video webinars can offer a whole lot in terms of advice and expertise about printing possibilities and potential pitfalls. Of course, this also reduces costs significantly.

To find out more about our face-time technical webinars please contact us.

Alternatively, our set-up and maintenance videos offer some insight into how your Claybot should be operated and looked after.