The world of ceramics is often perceived as an old fashioned one; the images that are conjured up by ceramics production are of 18th century Staffordshire potteries with workers huddled around cramped workstations hand finishing Royal Doulton teapots. One Liverpool Hope University Master’s student is shaking off that stuffy image and dragging ceramics kicking and screaming into the 21st century with the use of 3D technologies.
Jade Crompton’s first works combined digital design with a combination of techniques like lasercutting Perspex and slip casting. These techniques earned her a royal seal of approval as HRH Prince of Wales himself awarded Jade with a £2,000 Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) certificate in order to further develop her unique techniques. Jade commented to the Southport Visiter at the time: “Meeting Prince Charles was a real honour, he was so friendly and charming. When he presented me with my certificate, he commented on how unusual it was to combine my chosen materials.”
Jade Crompton at work.
Those royal coffers are being spent wisely; Jade’s most recent work is her Crystal Collection, which takes her processes of digital design one step further by incorporating 3D printing into her workflow. Jade designs her models using Solidworks and now as opposed to using laser cutting prepares them to be 3D printed.
“The benefit of 3D printing the model is that I can create multiple copies of the mould without the model wearing away or distorting as does plaster or clay models, this helps speed up my production time casting.” Jade told TCT. “3D printing has also allowed me to see my final product in the flesh before committing to making the mould. I can test its functionality and size, which has been particularly helpful while designing a tableware collection. I have been able to test the grip on my cups; an important feature as they were all designed without handles. The missing handles meant that I needed to add a double walled feature to allow it to be functional.”
Jade orders her 3D prints via i.materialise selecting the relevant material for each piece, the most common pieces use the polyamide material printed using EOS’s SLS technology. Being something of a pioneer in this field it meant that Jade discovered the hard way that the surface finishes of 3D printing often isn’t perfect, some trial and error was required before the process was perfected.
“I can’t make a mould straight from the 3D printed model, firstly I have to lightly sand and coat the print in a lacquer, and this gives my moulds a smoother surface, protects the 3D print from water absorption and allows me to remove the model from the mould easily.
Double walled cups.
She continued: “The use of 3D printing for making moulds has dramatically sped up production time and increased the accuracy in my designs, I can design almost anything in the software, I can account for firing shrinkages, the clays casting thickness, number of mould parts needed and where the seam lines will be.”
The result of Jade’s hard work is Crystal Collection - a selection of very 21st Century tableware ceramics. The collection is being debuted in Liverpool’s über cool space the Baltic Creative in October and has drawn attention from the wider ceramics world with industry magazine Ceramics Review in attendance.
TCT Show + Personalize 2015 visitors will be able to get a sneak peak of the work on the showfloor in the 3D Printing in Action exhibit on 30th September - 1st October, the NEC, Birmingham. Register for free.