Having just got my first printed ceramics outof the glaze firing I thought it would be a good time to offer a post on my current working method. On and off for the last ten years I have been using 3D computer modelling programs, mainly as a tool to train my visualisations memory and explore new forms. Using numerical transformations the computer can generate forms I would not otherwise conceive of. Scaling, particularly uneven scaling or scaling only in one direction I have always find interesting. The human eyes aptitude for responding to symmetries is another area I have explored both in 2D and 3D software. Morphology and the evolution of form is a third technique I use. The 3D program can calculate the transition from one form into another offering the possibility to capture a new form at any point along that transformation.
Recently I have started using Blender, an open source 3D program that offers great possibilities and I can see myself spending a lot of time with it. Unfortunately the most recent version does not yet have .stl export, the file type used to convert to code that the ceramic printer understands. So saved as .obj files I do the conversion to .stl in Netfabb Studio. What is useful in Netfabb is that the surface area of the form is given so I can make the necessary adjustments to make sure I will be able to print the object from one 60 ml syringe of clay paste. The saved .stl file is then opened in the BfB Axon program and finally the form is cut up to make a g-code file that goes on a memory card ready for the printer. The BfB Axon program has a minefield of settings that are required when using a self made printing head as with ceramics. This is another posting in itself and while I am still trying different syringes ( I want to be able to hold a greater volume of clay for each print) it will be a while before I know what my settled ceramic print head settings will be.
Three stages in preparation for printing – Blender, Netfabb and BFB Axon.
Morphology of glazed printed porcelain forms – height 9cm each.
Simple glazed printed porcelain scaled forms – 6 to 3 cm high.