Dec 15, 2015 | By Alec

Ceramics still have a very classy reputation nowadays. Though they can now be manufactured with state-of-the-art techniques and even ceramic 3D printers, it’s still regarded as the centuries-old, handcrafted quality product that it has always been. So many people still take out the ceramic plates for Christmas and other special events. Well, they might become even more normal in the near future, as one Liverpool student has developed a method for combining that hand-crafted, high quality touch with the latest design and 3D printing techniques.

The student in question is Jade Crompton, a Masters student at Liverpool Hope University who has been specializing in Ceramics and Digital design. She has been working very hard to change our perception of this traditional craft, without losing the quality that is always associated with it. This has already resulted in a very interesting range of products, all inspired by natural elements. Think rocks, ice, and lava. And with the help of 3D printing, she can even create mineral-like geometric shapes that don’t just look great, but also have comfortable grips and excellent insulation (to keep your coffee from cooling to quickly, for instance).

As you can see for yourself, this has already resulted in some amazing designs. But as she reveals, the basic manufacturing approach she has is actually linked to the Prince of Wales. Previous projects that combined digital design with other making techniques such as laser cutting and slip casting were rewarded with the prestigious £2,000 Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), along with a certificate personally presented to her by Prince Charles. With these funds, she has been taking her manufacturing techniques to the next level by incorporating 3D printing.

However, this doesn’t mean she actually 3D printed ceramic, as we’ve previously seen. As is illustrated by the excellent Crystal Tableware Collection seen here, she actually combines the old and the new, with the new being SolidWorks design to create perfect 3D models. These are subsequently 3D printed in polyamide by i.materialise. While many of us would be content with the final model, these polyamide pieces are actually used to create molds.

So how is that realized? First, the surface quality of the 3D printed parts is optimized through sanding and a lacquer coating, to ensure that the model is easily removed from the mold in later steps. “The benefit of 3D printing the model is that I can create multiple copies of the mold without the model wearing away or distorting as plaster or clay models tend to. This helps speed up my production time casting,” she explained to TCT magazine. “3D printing has also allowed me to see my final product in the flesh before committing to making the mould. I can test its functionality and size, which has been particularly helpful while designing a tableware collection. I have been able to test the grip on my cups; an important feature as they were all designed without handles. The missing handles meant that I needed to add a double walled feature to allow it to be functional.”

Once ready for slip casting, the semi-porcelain is poured into the mold. “Casting my molds has to be my favorite moment of any project: this is where my designs come to life for the first time. Using a 3D printed model for my mold meant that I had a clean piece to mold from: this also meant that when I cast from the molds there was minimal effort needed to clean them up,” Jade explained to i.materialise. “ 3D printing […] has dramatically sped up production time and increased the accuracy in my designs, I can design almost anything in the software, I can account for firing shrinkages, the clays casting thickness, number of mould parts needed and where the seam lines will be.”

Through a trial and error process, she has developed a perfect glazing and firing method that results in richly colored ceramics every time. This particular set was inspired by crystal formations, and looks fantastic in a photoshoot at a Starbucks in Liverpool. Jade is has therefore become completely convinced that this production technique can revolutionize ceramic production. “I know I could continue designing my collections in SolidWorks and 3D printing the models and still create something new every time. The process of using digital software to design, analyze, prototype, model, print and mold successfully has helped me to speed up production time, maintain accuracy, allowed me to produce multiple molds from single models and also to prototype and test out designs before producing final pieces, saving me time and money,”she concludes.

Fortunately for us consumers, this has already resulted in a wide range of cups, bowls and plates you can now find on Jade’s website here, and is already drawing the attention of all the important people in the ceramics world. So if you’re interested, order something quick before they become unaffordable in a few months from now.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Zsolt wrote at 5/2/2017 7:50:59 PM:

Been using this technology for quite a while now, I can say I've been asked for help and tips from guys, who been is ceramics for over 17 years :)

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