Ceramics 3D printing skills developed through an international workshop

Posted on February 2019

The international two-day workshop organised at Aalto ARTS on 4-5 February 2019 created a great space for learning and sharing information on the ceramics 3D printing technique. The workshop gathered together different stakeholders interested in the subject from inside Aalto, as well as from international universities and interest groups. The idea of the workshop arose from the recent collaboration between two departments of Aalto: the Department of Design (EMPIRICA research group) and the Department of Mechanical Engineering (Advanced Production Methods research group together with ADDlab). The aim of the workshop was to share the recent knowledge related to the field and to strengthen network for future collaborations.

Workshop participants experimenting with the new WASP delta 3D printer. (c) Minerva Juolahti

Experiments with three ceramics 3D printers

The new WASP delta printer arrived from Italy to Aalto just a few days before the workshop and during the workshop it was tested for the first time. The workshop participants made experiments also with two other ceramic 3D printers: one built at the Estonian Academy of Arts and one built by Ashish Mohite from ADDlab. The workshop was organised at the digital fabrication workshop that is located right next to the ceramics studio in the Väre building. Workshop master Manuel Fonseca Martinez hosted the workshop and helped with the 3D printing processes.

The new WASP delta printer printing at the workshop. (c) Minerva Juolahti

Pop-up exhibition introduced different approaches to ceramics 3D printing

Concurrently with the workshop, a pop-up exhibition was placed on view in the lobby area right next to the digital fabrication workshop. The exhibition showcased works made by some of the workshop participants. The works approached ceramics 3D printing technique from several different angles and created an important basis for discussions. On the first day of the workshop, the projects were presented by their makers.

Barbara Jansen presented her ceramic works that are the results of a research project and produced in collaboration with Aalto ceramics studio master Tomi Pelkonen. Jansen’s background is in textiles but in her postdoctoral research project Inspired by nature, temporal and structural patterns in Textiles she has also worked closely with ceramics. In the project, she created 3D models out of apple tree cells, then printed them and used the prints as molds for slip casting ceramics.

Ashish Mohite presented his PhD research project in which he approached 3D technology as a new tool for humans to make craft. In the project he produces 3D printed objects with four different materials using the same file that contains a cylinder form. The first materials he tested were plastic and ceramics, recently he has continued with metal and next he is going to do experiments with concrete. The different patterns of the objects are created by controlling the speed of the printer, while the file remains the same. Mohite’s background is in architecture and during the last years he has worked with the 3D printers of ADDlab studio.

Professor Maarit Mäkelä presented some of the ceramics 3D printing results of the experimental student workshop that was organised at the Kahla Porcelain factory in 2016. The idea of the experiments was to build something new with the 3D printing technique on factory made objects. The workshop was part of the project that resulted in the Ceramics and its Dimensions: Shaping the Future exhibition that toured around Europe for two years until the end of 2018. Mäkelä presented also the reindeer bone porcelain project that she has conducted together with Jaana Brinck. The project will hopefully get continuation soon. Finally, professor Urmas Puhkan from the Estonian Academy of Arts presented the 3D printed ceramic works that have been produced at the academy during the last four years. He spoke also about the different activities the academy has conducted around ceramics 3D printing, for example a collaboration with a restaurant and ceramics 3D printing summer workshops.

The ceramics pop-up exhibition in Väre. Works from the Estonian Academy of Arts are in front. (c) Minerva Juolahti

Safety of 3D printing in every step of the process

On the second day of the workshop doctoral student Kirsi Kukko from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Aalto spoke about the safety aspect in 3D printing on which she is at the moment writing her PhD thesis.

“Think about 3D printing as a process with the different stages, which all have their own safety concerns: the preparation, the printing, the post-processes and the maintenance of the printer” she stated. She continued that it is important to know your technology and material well and to know where the dangers are in the process. Instuctions for the safety aspects of 3D printing can be found on the web page of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The instructions are part of the results of a collaboration between Aalto University and Helsinki University.

New possibilities around ceramics 3D printing in the future

At the end of the workshop, a round table discussion was organised to discuss the future of ceramics 3D printing. Several interesting aspects came up in the discussion. The importance of international collaboration in the learning of a new technique was emphasised and student exchange was mentioned as a good way to build bridges and exchange knowledge between institutions. It was also mentioned that it would be good to increase the volume of teaching and incorporate 3D ceramics in the studies at an early stage. In this way, students would get acquainted with the possibilities of the technique and they would possibly gain more interest in deepening their skills in the technique. Ceramics 3D printing is not any more in the phase of experimentation, now it is time to move forward. The possibilities of business collaborations, for example with restaurants, were also discussed. The special features of the technique were also discussed. One of them is that it is possible to use the same printing file all over the world but with different local materials.

The workshop created a wonderful space for making and learning together and for building new bridges and collaborations between people. Hopefully this will lead into fruitful collaborations in the future.

The round table discussion at the end of the workshop. (c) Minerva Juolahti