Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research

Solid Free-form Fabrication of Ceramics as a Design Aid for Concept Modelling

Authors: Huson, D.,
Name of conference: IP28/Digital Fabrication 2012,
Place: Quebec, Canada
Date: 9-13 September 2012
Paper Presented by: David Huson
URL Links: http://www.imaging.org/ist/conferences/nip/NIP28

David Huson and colleagues at the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England are conducting a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to continue their research into the 3D printing of ceramic materials.

Many ceramic manufacturing companies use 3D CAD software and 3D printing technologies to produce design concept models for evaluation, although the value to the design process is limited due to the type of materials that can be printed, conventional modelling and processing methods still need to be used to achieve a design concept model in a real material.

In the UK ceramic industry, one of the companies at the forefront of these developments is Denby Pottery, a leading tableware manufacturer; they use several Z Corporation printers in their design studio to aid in the development of new design concepts. They are extremely positive about these technologies and cite great advantages in terms of time, cost and design flexibility. Denby are seeking a concept model process that gives a prototype that looks and feels like the final product and which can be fully tested for functionality glaze and decoration.

In collaboration with Denby Pottery as the industrial partner the research project has refined and enhanced the 3D ceramic printing process already developed at the University of the West of England, and has enabled the production of concept models of new design ideas in a real ceramic material, printed directly from CAD data, fired, glazed and decorated.

Conventionally, highly vitrified thin section bodies such as stoneware, bone china and porcelain used in tableware require the use of profile setters during firing to maintain the integrity of the shape. Profile setters are purpose built ceramic supports that have a similar expansion and contraction rate to the object they are supporting. An advantage of the 3D printing process is that it is possible to generate and print a custom shaped refractory profile setter within the 3D printer at the same time as printing the ceramic object. One of the aims of the project has been to investigate the potential of these ceramic firing supports and their advantages in the production of one-off ceramic design concept models.