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3D Printing in Ceramics

Date: 06/09/2012

New AHRC film looks at how creative innovation can translate to new products.

Arts and humanities research generates innovative ideas with real-world applications and commercial potential. One example of research that is realising this potential and contributing to economic growth is an AHRC-funded Knowledge Exchange project at the University of the West of England.

In this film we see how researchers at the Centre for Fine Print Research, Led by Professor Stephen Hoskins and his team, have developed new methods of creating ceramics using 3D printing technology and worked with Denby Potteries to test designs and develop prototype models in ceramics.

Through this method, ceramics are built up layer by layer using a specially-created – and now patented - ceramic powder. They are then fired and glazed in the usual way. ‘Printing’ ceramics in this way means that highly intricate and complex ceramics can be created that would have been impossible to achieve traditional methods. This has opened up commercial potential through quicker manufacturing processes and new design options. Gary Hawley, Senior Designer at Denby, praised the partnership between his company and researchers, saying that the new process is pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

The film concludes with Professor Hoskins' inspirational view of what the future for 3D print technology might look like. This includes the announcement of an exciting new AHRC-award of over £385,000 which will see the Professor Hoskins and his team to undertaking a major investigation into a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic, inspired by ancient Egyptian Faience ceramic techniques.

The process they aim to develop would enable ceramic artists, designers and craftspeople to print 3D objects in a ceramic material which can be glazed and vitrified in one firing.

Faience was first used in the 5th Millennium BC and was the first glazed ceramic material invented by man. Faience was not made from clay (but instead composed of quartz and alkali fluxes) and is distinct from Italian Faience or Majolica, glazed earthenware.

Professor Hoskins explains, It is fascinating to think that some of these ancient processes, in fact the very first glazed ceramics every created by humans, could have relevance to the advanced printing technology of today. We hope to create a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic which only requires one firing from conception to completion rather than the usual two. This would be a radical step-forward in the development of 3D printing technologies. As part of the project we will undertake case studies of craft, design and fine art practitioners to contribute to the project, so that our work reflects the knowledge and understanding of artists and reflects the way in which artists work.

This three-year research project will bring ancient tradition into the 21st century, bringing old and new together hand-in-hand by investigating three methods of glazing used by the ancient Egyptians: ‘application glazing’, similar to modern glazing methods; ‘efflorescent glazing’ which uses water-soluble salts; and ‘cementation glazing’, a technique where the object is buried in a glazing powder in a protective casing, then fired. These techniques will be used as a basis for developing contemporary printable alternatives.

Notes to editors

  • The project: ‘Can Egyptian Paste Techniques (Faience) Be Used For 3D Printed, Solid Free-form Fabrication of Ceramics?’ has received funding of £385,672 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the three year research project.
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.
  • Stephen Hoskins is the Hewlett Packard Professor of Fine Print and Director of the Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE Bristol. Apart from being a practising printmaker, his primary areas of research are; the potential of 3D printing and related digital technologies for the arts, plus the tactile surface of the printed artefact and its consequences for digital technology. His latest book 3D Printing for the Visual Arts (Technology That Crosses Both Art and Industry) is due to be published by Bloomsbury in early 2013.
  • David Huson is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Fine Print Research leading research in the field of 3D rapid prototype printed ceramics. He has given over sixteen peer reviewed conference papers at international conferences, including three focal papers at the IS&T Digital Fabrication Conferences 2007, 2008, 2009. David will moderate the NIP28/Digital Fabrication 2012 roundtable on 3D print in Quebec in September 2012. He has an extensive industrial background, working in research and development in the ceramics industry for 20 years as a ceramic engineer, and as company director for Enoch Wedgwood Ltd, Infrared International Engineering, Phoenix Ceramics and the Moira Pottery Co.
  • For further information, please go to the Centre for Fine Print Research website.


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