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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
PhD STUDENTSHIP: Vaughan, Katie
PROJECT DURATION: 01/09/2012 - 31/08/2015

The Arts and Humanities Research Council awarded this 3 year research project to David Huson and Professor Stephen Hoskins to develop a process based upon historic Egyptian Faience techniques with self-glazing properties based on the theoretical possibility of a printed, single fired, glazed ceramic object - something that has been impossible with current technology

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 developed a contemporary 3D printable, self-glazing, non-plastic ceramic material that exhibits the characteristics and quality of Egyptian Faience. 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 saggar (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 the team investigated the following methods used by the Egyptians:

Application glazing: similar to modern glazing techniques where glaze slurry is applied to a body. In some senses this was the most successful aspect of the project, it was found if the object was first printed and glazed in a porcelain material previously developed by the team. then the object was dipped in a Faience slip the object would effloresce and produce a self-glazed surface which could then be fired and a range of faience surfaces achieved as found in early Egyptian faience. This also may be seen as a cross between application and efflorescent glazing.

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. This predictably proved the most difficult to achieve, due to the variable ability of the salts migrating through the printed layers. However it has been proved possible in a research context to produce a 3D printed once fired glazed ceramic artefact.

Cementation glazing: the unfired object, it is buried in a glazing powder, in a saggar 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. This aspect of the research was very successful. This research was undertaken by the PhD student under the guidance of the team. Having investigated the available material at British Museum, Metropolitan Museum, New York and Petrie Museum looking at donkey beads created by cementation in faience, the team developed a body that could be 3D printed and then packed into a faience glaze material which, when fired in a saggar, produced a faience glazed ceramic artefact. The results when successful are very impressive producing brilliantly coloured glassy surfaces. It was discovered that there is a distinct size limitation to the process and that only small objects can be created. This is evidenced by the tiny Beetle car and Scarabs tested for the case study in collaboration with the artist Richard Slee. For the research into cementation, the 3D printing powder/binder process was used, the glazing material packed around the powder gives support during the firing and the required degree of glass formation in the firing was arrived at by careful testing and control of the glaze mixture and firing temperature. Firing trials were conducted and optimised by using a gradient kiln.

Glassy body: the team successfully produced a Parian type body that was 3D printed by extrusion For this body a material based on plastic clays with a formulation containing a high level of ceramic fluxes and stains was used. During development various clay/flux ratios were tested to achieve a material that could be easily extruded, could by vitrified yet still have sufficient firing stability to maintain its shape. The team collaborated with Dr Susannah Klein from Hewlett Packard Labs in Bristol to prove the potential of a 3D printed glass body. It was also found that the cementation process could be used to create a delicate glassy body with careful attention to firing temperature and regime.

A wide range of metal oxides, carbonates and associated compounds have been tested and used during the course of the project, the classic turquoise colour of Egyptian faience is reproduced in the efflorescence process by the addition of low percentages (less than 5%) of copper carbonate while a vibrant blue colour can be obtained by using low percentages of cobalt compounds. Green colours can be obtained by using chromium compounds at a similar percent addition and iron compounds will give a brown appearance.

Modern ceramic stains are available that will give a much wider colour pallet than the simple metal compounds with greater stability during firing. Tests have been conducted using these materials and have proved extremely effective in developing more varied and subtle colours with the efflorescence and application processes but less effective with the cementation process. This may be because of the increased stability of these materials. The cementation process depends on vaporisation and ion transfer to develop the colour and glaze surface and the more stable calcined stains will inhibit this action.

Ceramics based on both of these systems have the ability to be fired at much lower temperatures around 900 degrees Celsius, whereas for conventional modern ceramics temperatures of around 1050 degrees Celsius, and up to 1300 degrees Celsius are needed to develop a suitable glazed surface. This property has been exploited to develop a system where small 3D printed forms can be fired in a microwave oven in minutes rather than hours. This process uses a “microwave kiln” that consists of a small refractory box in which the internal surface is coated with a microwave susceptor.

This coating absorbs the electromagnetic microwave radiation and converts it to heat which is re-emitted as infrared radiation, this rapidly heats the refractory box up to a temperature of around 900 degrees Celsius which fires and glazes the 3D printed faience ceramic body in minutes.

A selection of paste ceramic bodies have also been tested, researched and successfully developed to allow paste extrusion 3D printing to be used to form self-glazing ceramics based on the same ancient Egyptian techniques. These bodies have used the efflorescence glazing system to develop the glaze surface with the use of plastic clays and lignosulphate plasticisers to allow extrusion through a fine nozzle.

The processes developed can be used to reproduce ancient Egyptian museum artefacts by scanning and 3D printing using the same glazing techniques as originally used. This give the ability to have a facsimile that can be handled and inspected by the public. There is also potential to develop the process into a production process for bespoke jewellery and giftware, of particular interest is the ability to fire examples produced by the process in a domestic microwave in 10 to 15 minutes, this has considerable potential in the area of education or possibly home 3D printing in conjunction with a low cost extruder/printer. The ability of the process to form a glazed surface on a ceramic at low temperatures gives a significant reduction in firing costs, an area that has significant interest currently and is worthy of future development.

Related Publications
Huson, D. and Vaughan, K. (2016) 3D Printed Ceramics: Current Challenges and Future Potential. International Conference on Digital Printing Technologies. Society for Imaging Science and Technology. ISBN 978-0-89208-315-2

O'Dowd, P., Hoskins, S., Geisow, A. and Walters, P. (2015) "Modulated extrusion for textured 3D printing.NIP & Digital Fabrication Conference, 2015 (1). 173 -178. ISSN 2169-4451

Huson, D. and Vaughan, K. (2015) 3D printed self-glazing ceramics: Process and materials development. NIP & Digital Fabrication Conference, 2015 (1). pp. 416-420. ISSN 2169-4451

Hoskins, S. (2014) 3D printing for the visual arts an overview of current practice and its historical context. In: Harrison, P. L., Shemilt, E. and Watson, A., eds. (2014) Borders and Crossings: The Artist as Explorer. Dundee: Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, p. 246. ISBN 1899837701

Hoskins, S. (2014) Issues of tacit knowledge within 3D printing for artists, designers and makers. NIP & Digital Fabrication Conference, 2014 (30). pp. 426-431. ISSN 2169-4451

Huson, D. and Vaughan, K. (2014) Further developments in the 3D printing of self-glazing single fire ceramic materials. NIP & Digital Fabrication Conference, 2014 (30). pp. 124-128. ISSN 2169-4451

Huson D (2014) 3D Printing of Self-glazing Ceramics: An Investigation into Egyptian Faience, 134-137
Huson, D. and Hoskins, S. (2014) 3D printed ceramics for tableware, artists/designers and specialist applications. In: Wohlbier, T., ed. (2014) Key Engineering Materials. (608) Traditional and Advanced Ceramics. Trans Tech Publications, pp. 351-357. ISBN 9783038350637

Huson, D. and Hoskins, S. (2014) 3D printing of self-glazing ceramics: An investigation into Egyptian faience. In: Harrison, P. L., Shemilt, E. and Watson, A., eds. (2014) Borders and Crossings: The Artist as Explorer. Dundee: Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, pp. 134-137. ISBN 1899837701

Hoskins, S. (2013) 3D Printing for Artists, Designers and Makers. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781408173794

Huson, D. (2013) Three-dimensional printed ceramics for concept modelling and bespoke production. The Journal of Imaging Science and Technology (JIST), 57 (4). p. 40401. ISSN 1062-3701

Huson, D. (2013) 3D printing of self-glazing ceramic materials: An investigation inspired by ancient Egyptian technology. In: Masahiko, F. and Lozo, B., eds. (2013) NIP29 29th International Conference on Digital Printing Technologies Digital Fabrication 2013 Technical Program and Proceedings. (29) USA: Society for Imaging Science and Technology, pp. 14-17. ISBN 9780892083060

Hoskins, S. and Huson, D. (2012) 3D printing of self-glazing ceramics: An investigation into Egyptian Faience. In: Benning, P., Silence, S., Simske, S. and Zapka, W., eds. (2012) NIP 28/Digital Fabrication 2012 Technical Program and Proceedings. Springfield, VA: IS&T: The Society for Imaging Science and Technology, pp. 341-343. ISBN 9780892083022

Huson, D., Parraman, C., Klein, S., Simske, S., Walters, P., Adams, G. and Hoskins, S. (2012) 3D printing of transparent glass. In: Benning, P., Silence, S., Simske, S. and Zapka, W., eds. (2012) NIP28/Digital Fabrication 2012 Technical Programme and Proceedings. Springfield, VA: IS&T: The Society for Imaging and Technology, pp. 336-337. ISBN 9780892083022

Hoskins, S. (2012) Computational colour, the visual artist and the printed artefact. Journal of the International Colour Association (JAIC), 6. pp. 50-54

Hoskins, S. (2012) Funding for faience. Ceramic Review. p. 15. ISSN 0144-1825

Artist Case Studies

Glenys Barton 3D printed efflorescence glazed ceramic

Glenys Barton (b. Stoke-on-Trent, UK, 1944) is a sculptor working mainly in ceramic and bronze. She trained at the Royal College of art 1968-71 and her work has been collected and exhibited widely, in Britain and abroad. Barton was one of the few British sculptors working mainly in ceramic in the 70s. Her precise geometrical forms made her work highly distinctive. She gained quick success after graduating and was the British prize winner at the International Ceramics Exhibition in 1972. Angela Flowers offered Barton her first solo exhibition in London which resulted in a career-long partnership with (what is now) Flowers Gallery and Barton has presented regular solo exhibitions with them since 1974. Two early works are held in the Ceramics Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum which illustrate her distinctive early fanatical concern for precision and interest in the use of industrial processes of ceramic production. These preoccupations led to an invitation to collaborate with Wedgwood. As artist-in-residence 1976-78 she worked with the Wedgwood Factory, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent to produce 26 sculptures. Since the 1980s her work has centred on the human form, the head in particular. She is best known for her ceramic portrait sculptures and became widely recognised in 1993 when her ‘Jean Muir’ was shown in the 'Portrait Now' exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London. The NPG subsequently added a Jean Muir figure to their collection and commissioned a sculpture of Glenda Jackson. Barton's Helena Kennedy and a head of Jean Muir are in the collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Much of Barton’s work exhibits a blue patina finish and she has previously worked with Egyptian Faience type of glazes and effects. She supplied examples of a porcelain press moulded disc of a human face. This were scanned with a 3D scanner and the point cloud data was imported into Geomagic software to construct a medal with both an obverse and reverse face.

The undercuts present on the top of the model are a result of the hand-sculpted original. These marks meant that this piece could not be easily reproduced by conventional pottery methods such as slip casting, however the 3D printed ceramic process developed by the researchers allows the ability and geometric freedom to reproduce these shapes.

The research team decided that an efflorescence glazing process was the best route to use for the turquoise patina glaze finish desired by the artist. The efflorescence salts are mixed into the body powder and released by the addition of the ink jet fluid in the 3D print build process and this process is better suited to simple block colours as the variation and subtlety of shade and texture are difficult to control. The 3D printed ceramic form was coated with an efflorescence slip, i.e. a suspension containing the efflorescence body materials plus the required amounts of soluble salts and colouring oxides. This suspension was applied by spraying onto the 3D printed body, the thickness of the application can be varied to develop the variations required by the artist in the fired glaze. After glazing the object is dried carefully and the soluble salts and colouring oxides migrate to the surface to form an alkali rich coating. When fired the alkalis react with the silica in the body to form a turquoise coloured glaze on the surface.

Richard Slee Volkswagen Beetle Scarab
Richard Slee (b. Cumbria, UK, 1946) studied at Carlisle College of Art & Design (1964-65) and the Central School of Art & Design (1965-1970). He graduated with an MA at the Royal College of Art (1988). In 2000 he undertook a major commission for Sculpture at Goodwood, and in the following year was awarded The Jerwood Applied Arts Prize for his contribution to contemporary ceramics. He has an international reputation as an artist and his selected group and solo shows include Studio Voltaire (UK), Object Gallery (Australia), Hales Gallery (London), National Museum (Sweden), Victoria & Albert Museum (UK), World Ceramic Centre (Korea) and The West Norway Museum of Decorative Art (Norway). His work was included in the well-received show, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970-1990 (2011-12), Victoria & Albert (London) and Show 5 curated by the Crafts Council (2003-04). Slee's work is represented in numerous collections world-wide, including the Crafts Council, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, the British Council, Corcoran Museum of Art (New York), Washington Museum of Art and Design (US) and the Victoria & Albert Museum. As one of Britain's most important contemporary ceramic artists, Slee's work attempts to challenge every conventional notion in ceramic art, transcending its utilitarian roots, whilst also sidestepping the self-indulgent aspects of the studio tradition that became ubiquitous in the late twentieth century. His works lie in contemporary debate and reference the current positioning of material specialisations within visual creativity. He is a professor at the University of the Arts London.

Slee’s concept was to take the iconic ancient Egyptian symbol of a scarab beetle, often found as an example of ancient Faience, and replace it with a model of a Volkswagen Beetle. A plastic kit model of a Volkswagen Beetle was assembled and then 3D scanned, this was modified and adjusted in 3D software to facet the surface to give a jewel like effect when cementation glazed with a dark blue copper carbonate glaze.

The research into 3D printed cementation glazed ceramic was undertaken by Katie Vaughan, the PhD researcher on the project. Conventional cementation glazing is a self-glazing technique that was first discovered and used by the ancient Egyptians, examples of what is believed to be objects produced by the cementation method date back the Middle Kingdom, this technique was mainly used to produce small items such as typically beads or amulets.

Research into the field of self-glazing by the cementation method has been limited. One of the most significant studies was conducted by Hans E. Wulff et al. in 1968, who gained access to a Faience workshop in Qom (Iran) where cementation glazing was still being used. Wulff witnessed the main stages of the process, from initial material preparation to the production of the final object. Wulff was allowed to take photographs documenting the process and was also given a large sample of the glaze powder and several finished artefacts to take away with him to study. The glaze powder was analysed and the ingredients and their proportions published in his paper ‘Egyptian Faience – A Possible Survival in Iran’, along with a replication study. It seems likely that the materials and processes used in Qom were very similar to that used in ancient Egypt, based on Wulffs’ observations, the cementation process used in Qom is detailed as follows:

“Desired objects were formed from a body composed mainly of silica. The source of silica came from carefully selected quartz pebbles that were processed into a fine powder, first using a sledgehammer and later a hand mill. The silica was then mixed with water and a binding agent to produce a paste/sticky dough that was then either hand formed into small bead sized balls, or pushed into moulds. Once dry the object was then placed in a saggar (a ceramic container) and surrounded by a specially formulated glaze power. The glaze powder was composed of a mixture of silica, soluble salts, calcium and copper compounds. During the firing process a series of chemical reactions occur, resulting in the formation of a glaze on the outer edges of the object only. Once cooled, the glaze powder is transformed into a friable mass that can be crumbled away easily to reveal the glazed object inside.”

Cementation glazing is thought to involve two different mechanisms, an interface glazing mechanism where there is a diffusion and migration of alkali salts from the glazing powder to the silica rich body where a glass phase is formed on the surface and the alkali salt penetrates the body, forming a buffer layer and binding together the silica particles in the body, and a chloride glazing mechanism (similar to traditional salt glazing) which is a vapour glazing mechanism based on alkali chlorides. In the cementation method, diffusion and migration of silica from the object to the glaze powder results in the formation of a capsule around the object. It is this capsule that prevents the glaze powder from adhering to the molten glaze forming on the object surface during the firing. The remaining glaze powder mixture does not transform into a dense sintered mass once fired and remains friable so can be crumbled away easily to reveal first the capsule and then the glazed object contained within.

The 3D printed cementation process developed by Katie Vaughan uses a new type of 3D printed ceramic body that has a high silica content and a cementation powder mixture that is optimised for the characteristics of the body. Combining these two materials give the ability to 3D print ceramic forms with complex geometries that would be difficult to reproduce by conventional forming techniques along with the unique appearance of the cementation glazed surface.

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