Issue date: 02 May 2012
Print experts from UWE Bristol's Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) have developed a new 3D printable ceramic material called ViriClay. The team led by Professor Steve Hoskins and Dave Huson has developed and patented the material which allows the printing of ceramic objects directly in 3D, saving time and money.
UWE has signed a licensing agreement with American supplier Viridis3D, granting them exclusive rights to market ViriClay. The material has wide-ranging potential for domestic and commercial applications in the arts and consumer product markets.
ViriClay allows users to produce unique works directly from digital files, without incurring modelling and tool costs. It is directly applicable to the tableware industry, where it will shorten ceramic production lead times. Excitingly, it will enable designers, makers and artists to produce complex works that would simply not have been possible without this technology.
The research team at UWE includes Professor Hoskins, Director of the CFPR, Dave Huson and Dr Peter Walters.
Research fellow David Huson explains, “During our research we tried many different methods and processes for ceramics and looked at different substances. One of the key challenges was to develop ceramic objects which were strong enough when they came out of the printer, but still had the right properties to be able to be fired in a kiln. We needed to develop something which would allow for the same density and shrinkage of traditional ceramic materials, and also meet the requirements of the ceramics industry.
“This new development could open doors for artists working in ceramics to create designs using a computer which were not possible in the past. For example, we can design an object, such as a ball inside a lattice sphere, which is impossible to create in any other method, but can now be made in a single process using the new technology. We are hopeful that this deal will now enable others to benefit from our research findings.”
Using ViriClay will reduce the total time, labour, and energy required to make 3D printed ceramic objects by more than 30% and improve the surface finish of glazed parts. Ceramic prints can be produced from many digital sources including CAD and 3D scan data and the material is compatible with standard 3D printers.
Professor Hoskins said, “For the first time it will be possible to print rapid prototypes in porcelain ceramic, and fire them to 1200ºc. Prior to this, ceramic prototypes were fabbed in plastic or plaster so it was not possible to fire a clay prototype and test the glazes.”
UWE Vice Chancellor Steve West congratulated the team at CFPR, saying, “Well done to Stephen, Dave and everyone involved in this great piece of work.”
The team has produced a number of research articles and conference papers on their findings which can be found on the CFPR website. Research into the latest 3D printing technology was funded with the help of the AHRC.