3D printing is creating 3D solid objects from a model or digital plan on a computer. Such objects are built up layer by layer, in an automated environment. Mostly, because of early iterations of 3D printers, 3D printers use plastic media. Plastic is easy to use, has unlimited shelf life, and is often cheap. But the 3D universe is getting more exciting as printers are invented that can use other materials — like ceramic clay bodies. This summer, McHenry County (Illinois) Community College, where I make work in the ceramics studio, acquired a 3D printer by way of a grant. These suckers are, so far, pricey. We’re talking thousands of dollars.
But they sure are worth the effort. So, my instructor, Tom Vician, lusted after the only printer we know of that prints with regular ceramic clay bodies. He applied for a grant, won it, and got together with the Potterbot people at 3D Potter in Stuart, Florida. These guys make the only 3D ceramic printers that use real clay. The company has a mini-type desktop 3D unit that prints objects up to a foot tall. They have an amazing printer, the Scara, that’s about four feet tall, injects the clay through an overgrown syringe, with no high pressure processes. And there are models in between.
About the Scara, 3D Potter’s website says:
“The biggest and the best. Using a Scara (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) rather than our normal cardinal axis system, this beast of a machine can print giant objects and structures. It can even be used with a continuous flow system allowing the V-4 to print an unlimited amount in-between prints.”
This is the machine we now have in our school studio, and I will tell you, it is impressive.
The advantages of getting to know 3D printing are many.
- Potterbots offer cutting edge technology for the production of ceramic art.
- Makers from different backgrounds and with different levels of expertise experience new ways of making art.
- Ceramicists with disabilities and physical limitations can create large and complicated art as well as simple pottery.
- Challenges critical thinking by integrating 21st century technology with materials that have been used since the beginnings of civilization.
- This is a technology that allows creation of clay forms that cannot be achieved through traditional wheel-throwing and hand-building methods.
- 3D printing using clay can lead to cross-disciplinary projects combining engineering, digital technology and art.
- Encourages collaboration between artists, materials, and disciplines.
HandbuildersMonthly.com talked with Jeremy Simon, Founding Partner at 3DUniverse. He commented on the efficacy of bringing a Potterbot into an academic clay studio.
“3D Universe specializes in bringing digital fabrication technologies to educational organizations. We have seen many schools achieve great results after introducing 3D printing into their curriculum, as it provides a valuable skill- set for students while providing hands-on learning, giving the students an opportunity to see and hold the results of their work, which could not be achieved by any other means.
3D printing opens up new areas of potential in existing fields, and applying this technology in the art department for custom ceramics would be no exception. Students would learn about 3D design and digital fabrication techniques, both of which will be critically important skills in the professional landscape of the future.”
It was obvious at first sight that a Potterbot allows experiences and work projects that just couldn’t be done any other way. We at HandbuildersMonthly.com will be writing a comprehensive article about using a Potterbot.
We’ll cover learning curve, skillsets needed, and approximate costs. The article should be up live in our premium content by late Sept, 2019, a few days from now. Come back and sign in or subscribe so you don’t miss this look into the future. 3D printing is going to be a part of almost every industry in the next five to ten years.
3D ceramic printing is a rapidly growing and changing technology that will become accessible to all budgets and useable by all skill levels. Currently, 3D printing is essential to movies and television, manufacturing, medicine, therapy, engineering, planning and development in many industries, and is rapidly becoming an essential option in art.
With the 3D Potterbot Printer, McHenry County College will connect creative art and craftsmanship with cutting edge technological critical thinking for multi-generational students. Making work with this unique device encourages and enables creativity in design, melding principals and skills taught in all art programs with today’s evolving manufacturing experiences. With this device, older non-traditional students can input artistic ideas and design elements they absorbed decades ago and output work that keeps pace with today and tomorrow. Younger students will develop those traditional skills in artistic tradition while expanding technological thinking that has fueled their entire lives. Together, these student cultures will grow our creative and productive edge in a world changing hour by hour. We feel lucky to have this opportunity.
It isn’t too soon for makers and artists to explore 3D ceramic printing on a personal level. Potterbot’s makers appeared at NCECA 2019, and had a rave crowd at their exhibit. There are 3D ceramic printers affordable to many artists, and soon, the selection will grow. Read along with our explorations and see how 3D ceramic printing works. It’s an amazing method of creating tomorrow’s art out of today’s mud.