Showing posts with label CeraJet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CeraJet. Show all posts

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Just Be Patient... 3D Printing Will Eventually Make it Possible

Apparently, I'm a hoarder when it comes to email messages because I continually run up against the size limits imposed on my account.  Hitting the upper limit once again, I decided to seriously downsize and get rid of some emails.  As I poured through the emails to see which ones I was willing to send off to oblivion, I ran across this one to Evan Malone, one of the pioneers of personal desktop 3D printing and a founder of the [email protected] project.

I actually  didn't realize just how early in the game that I became interested in personal 3D printing.  As it turns out, the first beta of the [email protected] design was released in December of 2006,  the same month as my first correspondence with Evan.

2006 - First Exploration of the Potential for Ceramic 3D Printing

Here is my email to him...

From: ****
Sent: Monday, December 11, 2006 3:16 PM
To: ***.****
Subject: Fascinated by the [email protected] project for artwork.

A friend referred me to your web site regarding the [email protected] project.  What is really exciting about this particular project is that you actively encourage experimenting with different materials.  I'm wondering if anyone has experimented with ceramic 'slip' or if it's even possible to use. 
I'm guessing that build time would require relatively long delays between layers to let the slip dry a bit; but, since Native American Pottery uses a coiled technique, the potential might be interesting.  Here are some samples of my daughter's artwork that spurred my interest in this regard.  They are handbuilt and then carved.
The concept of being able to more quickly build ceramic items with undercuts impossible for traditional molding techniques is very intriquing.  What do you think?
  Tom Meeks
 And, his reply...
From: "Evan Malone" <****>
To: <***>
Subject: RE: Fascinated by the [email protected] project for artwork.
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 04:46:01 +0000

Hi Tom,
Your daughter’s ceramics are beautiful – I throw a bit myself when I can find the time.  I think [email protected] would be able to make some great artwork with ceramics – you’d probably need to work with a thick slip, but certainly there is no reason you couldn’t use the machine for that.  I doubt you’d need to wait much between layers either, assuming you had your slip consistency just right.  Achieving horizontal cutouts as in your would probably require some support material – wax or something similar which would support the overhangs until they dry enough to support themselves/be fired.
I’d be thrilled to see what could be done!
Evan Malone
Computational Synthesis Laboratory
B60 Rhodes Hall (physical)
138 Upson Hall (mail/shipping)
Cornell University
Ithaca NY 14853 USA

Early Pioneers - Unfold

It's been seven years since that first interchange.  Along the way various pioneers have designed 3D printers that could print in clay.  Unfold used a RapMan printer from Bits from Bytes (Now part of 3D Systems) to create their syringe-based deposition system clay printer.  It did a very nice job.   But, it was a hobbyist machine that required users go through what was know as "the build experience" to own one.  Unfold appears to have been primarily interested in using their printer to realize their own designs rather than creating a clay printing 3D printer for the wider artisan market.

You can follow the evolution of the Unfold attempts to create an open-source clay printing machine on the Unfold Fab Blog.

While the "build experience" is not my favorite way to enjoy the benefits of 3D printing,  I certainly have a great deal of respect for the [email protected] and Unfold pioneers for their contributions to show that ceramic printing was posssible.

Early Pioneers - Figulo

Pioneer Figulo  has had even more influence and impact on where we are today in the state of ceramic 3D printing.  Like Unfold, they sought a way to print ceramic art; but, took a completely different route to do so.  Instead of using a syringe approach, they began their development with a powder based system.  While there is not a great deal of information on the process, we can see it in some stage of its development this image.

Figulo Ceramic Printing Process
This difference in technique has enormous implications for design freedom. With a syringe system support materials are solids that must be removed, limiting design options unless one wants the deal with the supports.  The technology that Figulo chose as the basis for their ceramic printing technique lays down a material and then "prints' a binder.  The powder material that is not solidified acts as the support and is simple shaken or blown off after the print is completed.  Figulo took an existing 3D Systems technology and created the materials and binder for creating ceramics designs.

While little is known about the actual specifications of the CeraJet printer or the materials, we do know that the technology that is used in the CeraJet is called "ColorJet printing (CJP)".  While this technique can be used to create full color objects, I do not know whether that is the case for the CeraJet, which may rely on the glazing step for final coloring.

What IS important about that technology is that it allows radically new designs to be created by ceramics artists.

The Benefit of Figulo's Experience

By the time that 3D Systems acquired Figulo, the company had been delivering ceramic prints for long enough to have some serious experience in creating materials and techniques.  A year ago, they released a video showing some samples of what they printed on their pre-CeraJet printer.  Now, remember, these are NOT CeraJet samples.  They simply reflect the experience of the new 3D Systems' ceramic print team.

Seven Years Was Worth the Wait!

Who would have dreamed, just seven years ago, that one of the largest manufacturers of high end 3D printers would be today's biggest champion of consumer 3D printing?  The day that 3D Systems bought Desktop Factory, I truly thought that was the end of a dream.

I knew that there would be 3D printers in the hands of a few hobbyists; but, I thought the dream of seeing a true consumer "ready-to-print" device was a long, long way off.

The dream was revived with that first announcement by 3D Systems of the Cube 3D printer.  It was too good to be true, so I immediately set up a meeting to check it out for myself.  When they set it down in front of me, I immediately knew this was what I had waited for all that time.  While it may sound overly dramatic now, all I could do was look over every inch of the machine while repeating "This is it.  This is it.  It's exactly what I had been dreaming about."

Little did I know that day, that less than two years would pass before my REAL dream would see reality!

With this year's CES, the dream that sparked that letter to Evan Malone came to fruition.  At last, with the CeraJet, ceramic artisans have a way to create entirely new designs without having to build their own printing platform or tinker with messy syringes.

I am very, very happy with 3D Systems' decision to purchase Figulo and develop a ceramics printer that promises to do so much at such an obtainable cost. 

Sometimes, the answers to dreams, long set aside, come not only unexpectedly; but, with dazzling new dreams!

What is YOUR dream?

What is your dream?  Is it the ability to print a flying drone with both structural and electrical parts all in one printing?   Is it the ability to print objects with both soft and rigid parts all in one printing?  Whatever it is, just be patient.  3D Printing... and most likely 3D Systems... will eventually make it possible.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

CeraJet: Taking a "Disruptive Technology" Seriously

A "Distruptive Technology" Up Close and Personal

A little over a year ago, I was part of a team that organized a meeting for government and military logisticians to talk about additive manufacturing (3D printing) as a "Disruptive Technology" that could have huge implications on tomorrow's supply chain.

Today, I want to talk about that same subject in a context that has personal implications for thousands of small artisans that work in the field of ceramics.  They could be part time potters taking in a few dollars at local art shows or full-time sculptors whose work sells for thousands of dollars.  They could be selling their wares in well-known art centers, like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria.  or, they could be laboring in the poorest of countries making simple utilitarian cups, bowls and pots.  They could be working with clay for a thousand different purposes.  What ever they are doing, clay crafts persons have a place of respect in our family.

The Importance of "Hand Crafted" to the Clay Community

It is amazing how many people find themselves, at one time or another, working in clay in one form or another.  For the most part, the way they work is not much different than the way potters have worked for a thousand years... forming the clay by hand.

This is true even for those that use molds as the starting point for their clay creations.  While this could be considered a bit more "mechanized", there is still a good bit of hand work that is required to complete their pieces.

The importance that clay artisans place on creating "Hand Crafted" work cannot be dismissed lightly. And, yet, we have to remember that ALL ships were once "Handcrafted" as were just about every item used in the daily life of people.

What a Craftsperson Has to Sell

An artist, or serious craftsperson, at the most basic level, has only two things to sell... a unique vision and a unique skill.  Working in clay combines these two elements in an almost primal way where skilled hands, directed by the unique vision manually shape something of compelling beauty and value.  I suspect that  this Head/Hand relationship is exactly why so many people enjoy working in clay.  And, for many, it will be unthinkable that it would be any other way.

But, that is no longer true.  There is a new "Disruptive Technology" in town.  And, every ceramic craftsperson... whether they embrace it or not... owes it to themselves to understand the implications for their own creative future.

Empathy for Resistance to Change

I have to tell you, I have a great deal of empathy for ceramics artists that can't even begin to understand why anyone would not want to get their hands dirty creating ceramic objects and art the way it has been done for thousands of years.  I understand where they are coming from and agree with the reasons they feel so strongly.  You will never hear me ridiculing anyone that dismisses Ceramic 3D printing for their own work.  But, at the same time, I want these artists to understand that Ceramic 3D printing IS going to be disruptive to the field and that disruption, while troubling to some, will bring a whole new vision to the world of ceramic arts.

What a 3D Craftsperson Has to Sell

Those ceramic artisans that embrace ceramic 3D printing still have, when all is said and done, only two things to sell... their unique vision delivered via unique skills.  But, the vision can be unshackled from the limitations of the clay working processes and the skills are applied in different areas and different orders.  

Potential Distruptions

If I were an artist today that created intricate sculptures  in clay, I would be very concerned by the reality that one of the first impacts on my field might be on how the public is going to be able to differentiate my "handcrafted" art from 3D printed production art.  It is very likely to appear very much the same.

Clay and Ceramic magazines and journals understand the community they serve.  But, what happens if the ceramic community begins to diverge into different segments with people having surprisingly different skill sets.  Is it possible for traditional clay artists and ceramic 3D artists to embrace each other as members of the same artistic community bound by their love of ceramics?

I certainly hope so.  We need both.  The future needs both.

The CeraJet Will be Covered Here

 Whether or not I own or have access to a CeraJet, I will find a way to cover it.  My interest in 3D printing began with an interest in ceramic sculpting in support of my daughter's art.  While we have loaned some budding potters our Brent "C" wheel, the studio in which my Cube 3D printers do their magic is the very same studio where clay was thrown and hand built and where our Skutt KM 818 kiln still occupies an important place of its own..  It's not going anywhere.  We need it.

Just as in the past I helped serious craft persons and artists to learn how to photograph their own work with the new digital camera technology, I want to make myself ready to help clay artisans to not only understand the disruptive technology of 3D printing; but, to be able to successfully ride that disruption to even greater success.  It's going to be an interesting ride.