Argillasys 3D Printed Ceramic Spin Out Company

AWARDING BODY: Arts and Humanities Research Council Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement – Commercialisation Highlight Call
AWARDED TO: Hoskins, Stephen

The aim of this project was to create a spin out company that exploited the patented 3D printed ceramic process developed by Hoskins and Huson at the University of the West of England, Bristol as a result of an AHRC funded project ‘The Fabrication of Three Dimensional Art and Craft Artefacts through Virtual Digital Construction and Output’. According to the influential Wohler’s Report of 2011, the Global 3D print market was estimated by to be worth $1.74 billion and was growing at an annual rate of 24.1%. Overall the 3D print industry had grown in double digit figures for 15 of its 24 years. There were many bureau services around the world for 3D printing specialising in 3D printing prototype models for industry. To date there was only one company, Figulo, who were US based, printing in 3D ceramics in the global market. The applicants and their partner believed in a demand for a UK based specialist 3D printed ceramic bureau service. 3D printed ceramics was a real material with which it was possible to print shapes in ceramics that were previously unobtainable, it is this second aspect the researchers were seeking to exploit.

They aimed to create a 3D ceramic prototyping facility for designers and the ceramic tableware industry in the UK and Europe. In addition the company would investigate the commercial potential of printing ceramic setters for the industry. Additional markets would be 3D printed photoceramic tiles for both decorative use, the Southern European gravestone market, and a range of off the shelf 3D printed designs.

To achieve this aim a new range of slip coating materials would be developed that replicated the characteristics of earthenware, stoneware and porcelain bodies, and a source of suitable glazes would be identified or new glazes developed, to match these new bodies. In addition, they sought to gain better market intelligence of the industrial ceramic tableware market, as well as targeting the consumer and specialist bespoke designer and craft markets. The team would be aided by their partnership with Sibelco, a Belgian mineral and metal extraction company with a global reach. Sibelco had over 245 production units worldwide for the extraction, production and distribution of the main industrial minerals quartz, cristobalite, nepheline syenite, plastic clay, and olivine. The UK research and development arm of Sibelco would collaborate on the project both with technical support and assistance with market intelligence.

The primary beneficiaries of this project would be industrial and artist/craft/design users in the creative industries working with ceramics. It would put the UK at the forefront of 3D printed ceramics and demonstrate the commercial viability of UK art and design research, having a direct impact upon UK PLC as a cutting edge digital manufacturing environment.

The project impacted the time it took the UK ceramics industry to develop a new product, reducing the time taken to produce setters from a six to eight week minimum turn around (due to shipping times from China), down to a matter of days from concept to completion. Previously the ceramic prototype would then require several days of full time craftsmanship to create a plaster mould to cast the finished prototype. This project would reduce that time at a greatly reduced cost – enabling industry to create inexpensive ceramic prototypes. Longer term, it would also give industry the ability to create specialist mass customised objects in a way that would have been inconceivable in the past.

For artists, designers and craftspeople, the service would allow the creation of a one-off or limited run of a design at a commercially viable price, without needing a large workshop and expensive tooling. Further copies could be created to order without the need to create all of the objects in one go. The service would cater to the new breed of designer craftsperson, who is comfortable working in a digital environment and working with traditional hand tools and skills.




Project Outcome: Viridis3D and UWE Announces License Agreement for ViriClay

The University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) and Viridis3d LLC (Viridis) are pleased to announce that they have entered in to a licence agreement granting Viridis the exclusive rights to market ViriClay, a 3D printable ceramic material developed by Professor Stephen Hoskins and Mr Dave Huson of UWE’s Centre for Fine Print Research.

This novel material has wide domestic and commercial applications and will allow the print of ceramic objects directly in three dimensions. It will also allow the user to produce unique works without incurring modelling and tool costs. It is directly applicable to the whiteware and tableware industry, where it will shorten ceramic production lead times. Excitingly, it will enable designers, makers and artists to produce works that would simply not have been possible without this technology.

ViriClay, has wide domestic and commercial applications for the arts and consumer product markets and offers these advantages:
– Reduces the total time, labour, and energy required to make a 3D printed ceramic objects by more than 30%.
– Improves the surface finish of glazed parts.
– Ceramic prints can be produced from many digital sculpting packages including CAD, 3D scan data, etc.
– Compatible with standard 3D printers.

David Huson and Stephen Hoskins have developed a new innovative ceramic process using a ceramic powder designed to go into a standard ZCorp printer, which normally prints in a plaster based material. Using the patented ceramic printing process it is now possible to successfully print, glaze and fire a porcelain type body to 1200 degrees C. The ceramic object can then be rapidly glazed and decorated – a quantum leap in the world of 3D printing.

Professor Stephen Hoskins, who spearheaded the research, said: “We have proved a conceptually new approach to 3D print in ceramics. This development means that for the first time it will be possible to print rapid prototypes in ceramic. Prior to this ceramic prototypes were cast in plastic or plaster so it was not possible to fire a prototype and test the glazes.”

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