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A new innovative ceramic process means it is now possible to print, glaze and fire a ceramic object in 3D, then rapidly glazed and decorate – a quantum leap in the world of 3D printing.
The limits of 3D printing continue to be pushed, with new research and with open source developments and fantastic online think tanks iike Thingiverse. At the University of the West of England in Bristol, Professor Stephen Hoskins, a graduate of the Royal College of Art and the Hewlett Packard Professor of Fine Print, has been working away at creating the first ceramic 3D printing process.
“This development means that for the first time it will be possible to print rapid prototypes in porcelain ceramic, and fire them to 1200 C." Professor Hoskins said, "Prior to this ceramic prototypes were cast in plastic or plaster so it was not possible to fire a prototype and test the glazes.”
Apart from being a practising printmaker, Hoskins' primary areas of research are in the tactile surface of the printed artefact and its consequences for digital technology, plus the potential of rapid prototyping and digital technologies for the applied arts.
The snappily named ViriClay allows the user to produce unique works without incurring modelling and tool costs, so will shorten ceramic production lead times and is compatiable with many 3D printers.
It's an exciting leap in technology and in line with the 3D printing revolution, that which this week's Economist is calling "the third industrial revolution", our only quandry is that it removes the human element from small runs of ceramic pieces, and makes us think of the sad demise of the Camberwell College of Art Ceramics course.
Speaking of hand made vs digital, watch this excellent experiment of man vs machine, Dominic Wilcox vs 3D Printer at the recent Hacked Milan at Milan Salone 2012: