Researchers at the University of West England in Bristol, UK have developed a 3D printing technique to create 3D printed ceramic tableware.
Prior to this discovery, ceramic prototypes were cast in plaster or plastic, making it impossible to test the glazes since these prototypes couldn’t be fired.
In 2012, Professor Stephen Hoskin, the director of UWE’s Center for Fine Print Research, together with Senior Research Fellow David Huson, received 385,000 GBP to conduct an investigation into a self-glazing ceramic 3D printer.
Researchers have developed a way to create ceramics by using a ceramic powder that’s designed to go into a ZCorp printer, a machine that normally prints in plaster. Using this printing process it is now possible to print, glaze, and fire a porcelain piece that can then be rapidly decorated and glazed, making it easier to develop prototypes for new ceramic designs. Researchers believe this process will cut down on the energy required to produce ceramic products, as well as decrease the amount of materials and labor involved.
The material, known as “ViriClay” is compatible with standard 3D printers and allows users to create unique designs and art without the need for modeling tools.
The university plans to launch a spin-off company of the University called “Argillasys” meaning “potter’s clay” in Latin. This company will offer 3D printed ceramics, an online shop for ceramic pieces, as well as specialist prototyping of tableware for designers in the industry.