Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research
  faience/Egyptian paste image

Can Egyptian Paste Techniques (Faience) Be Used For 3D Printed, Solid Free-form Fabrication of Ceramics?

Awarding body:
Arts and Humanities Research Council
awarded to:
Hoskins, Stephen
researcher participants:
Huson, David
Project duration: 01/09/2012 - 31/08/2015

Project details:
The Arts and Humanities Research Council have funded a 3 year research project for David Huson and Professor Stephen Hoskins to develop a process based upon historic Egyptian Faience techniques, which should enable ceramic artists, designers and craftspeople to print 3D objects in a material which they are familiar with and that 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, which is a tin, glazed earthenware. (The earliest Faience is invariably blue or green, exhibiting the full range of shades between them, and the colouring material was usually copper).

The researchers believe that it is possible to create a contemporary 3D printable, self-glazing, non-plastic ceramic material that exhibits the characteristics and quality of Egyptian Faience. It is the self-glazing properties that are of interest for this research project. In the 1960's, Wulff in 'Egyptian Faience a possible survival in Iran' postulated that the technique he observed in Qom, Iran described as cementation glazing, could have been a method used by the Egyptians from 4,000 BC. In order to glaze the unfired object, it is buried in a glazing powder, in a sagger (a protective vessel of fireclay to support and protect delicate objects) then fired. During firing, a glaze is formed directly by chemical reaction on the surface of the body but the glaze mass as a whole does not melt.

Modern techniques employ 3D printing to form physical models by a variety of methods from a virtual digital file. An additive layer manufacturing process is employed to deposit a variety of materials: commonly UV polymer resins, hot melted 'abs' plastic and inkjet binder or laser sintered, powder materials. These techniques have previously been known as rapid prototyping (RP). With the advent of better materials and equipment some RP of real materials is now possible. These processes are increasingly being referred to as solid 'free-form fabrication' (SFF) or additive layer manufacture. To create a printable Faience we will investigate, three methods used by the Egyptians.
Application glazing: similar to modern glazing techniques where glaze slurry is applied to a body.
Efflorescent glazing: where the glazing materials in the form of water-soluble salts are mixed with the body. the salts migrate to the surface forming a layer, which fuses to a glaze when fired.
Cementation glazing: the unfired object, it is buried in a glazing powder, in a sagger then fired. During firing, a glaze is formed directly by chemical reaction on the surface of the body but the glaze mass as a whole does not melt. We will use these techniques as a basis for developing contemporary printable alternatives. In addition the research team will work with a group of art/design/craft practitioners who will be selected as case studies and co-contributors to the project.

In Egypt, from the New Kingdom onward, the colour palette of Egyptian Faience was extended and a new method of manufacture was developed. A PhD studentship will research this method, more like a glass, where the body is entirely homogeneous without a separate coating of glaze. The surface was generally, but not always, glossy. The glassy phase results from the addition of coloured frit to the Faience mixture. (Frit, a mixture of glass ingredients that have been incompletely reacted together, is a material in its own right and can be used as a pigment or for making objects). The research will investigate whether the addition of coloured frit may enable an Egyptian Faience like material suitable for 3D printing with a greatly increased colour palette.
This project offers the theoretical possibility of a printed, single fired, glazed ceramic object - something that is impossible with current technology.

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