The seminar commenced with an explanation of the development of the 3D printer, and its benefits were discussed with the ceramics Art and Design post-graduate students. Information was presented on the general working principles of printers, the kind of technologies that are used with ceramic materials and examples of ceramic works created with 3D printers. Presenters emphasized the importance of computer-aided software for creating contemporary forms by ceramic artists and examples were given as to how different elements such as music, sound and gravity can be used together with software language to construct a ceramic form.
A focus of discussion were some of Jonathan Keep's works, which were created by using processing software that transformed music and sound into 3D ceramic objects. It was further emphasized that the internet is an important educational and teaching resource that is often used in association with 3D ceramic printers. The on-line group, ‘Make Your Own Ceramic Printer’—one of the most extensive forums where information about 3D ceramic printing is shared—was highlighted as a particularly important resource. This on-line forum has become a direct meeting point for many people working professionally in the field and it is akin to a classroom on a global scale.
After the seminar there were three days of applied workshops during which participants were able design a piece in a selected computer package and then use a 3D ceramic printer to produce a print of their work. 3D objects were designed using the computer programs Rhino, Shapeshifter and Sculptris. The general workflow in Rhino was to create a flat, 2D shape and give it three dimensionality using the ‘Extrudecrv’ command. This base 3D object could then be deformed using commands such as ‘Twist’, ‘Taper’ and ‘Cage Edit’. Once the participants were happy with the design of their object it was saved in the STL [stereolithography] file format, an industry standard for 3D printing applications. The Cura software was then used to split the 3D object into layers with 1mm spacing, making the object ready for printing.
Limoges porcelain and terracotta clay were both used for the actual 3D printing. Clay was fed into the extruder by applying air pressure of between 1.5 and 4.5 bars, depending on the hardness of the prepared clay. In the printing works, where different applications are made, the behaviour of the ceramic material was examined. Workshops were conducted in an experimental setting where the possibilities of the 3D ceramic printer were tested. The aim was to discover which forms can be produced with this technique, and how the ceramic material reacted to the technology.
With their increasing popularity, it is important to encourage students to engage with this new technology and not work against it, nor work for it, but learn how to work with it.