The 3D ceramic printing project is a research-based initiative at the University of West England (UWE) in Bristol to develop a 3D printing process using ceramic materials. Previously, the the ceramic prototypes were printed using plastics, which was not possible to glaze, fire, or test as a real product.
The project is managed by professor Stephen Hoskins, director of the UWE’s Centre for Fine Print Research, and David Huson, Senior Research Fellow based on direct 3D printing process on a material called “ViriClay”, which is used widely in the ceramic industry (What Are the Types of 3D Printing Technologies?).
Professor Hoskins describes the process as the ZCrop 3D printer use the ceramic powder (What are the Types of 3D Printing Materials?) to build the model or the prototype using thin layers above each other. The result product can enter a firing process with low temperature, which is called the biscuits firing, then it can be glazed and enter the firing oven again in higher temperature of 1200 degree C. Painting one the product can be done after the glazing process and enter the firing process again.
The process of creating self-glazed 3D printed ceramic is inspired from an ancient Egyptian technique called Faience ceramics, which is described on Wikipedia as: “Egyptian faience is a sintered-quartz ceramic displaying surface vitrification which creates a bright lustre of various blue-green colours.”
The video below includes an interview with Professor Hoskins to describe the project in more details:
The project, which received funding of over £385,000, is initially a research project directed for designers and artists to allow them to directly 3D print and color their creative ceramic artwork. But later, a collaboration with a company called Argillasys indicated that the project can be implemented in the industrial process and follow the industrial standards. Additionally, the researcher indicated that the new method can reduce the time, labor, and energy of the ordinary ceramic process with %30 percent.
Professor Hoskins in the video above mentioned a valuable information that the 3D printing industry is promising but it need amore research and time until we can see it in industrial products rather than prototyping and single products.