3D Printing with Clay: Merging Craft with Digital Innovation

3D Printing with Clay: Merging Craft with Digital Innovation

At Drag And Drop technology, sustainability, and craftsmanship converge to create beautiful products with expressive design.

Inspired by the graceful undulations of water ripples, the mesmerizing beauty found in nature's growth patterns, and the intricate artistry of textile weaving, our ceramic collection reflects a rich heritage of inspiration.

This is a journey behind the scenes, exploring the process of creating our collection of ceramics. From the precision of 3D printing to the meticulous glazing and finishing touches, our vases showcase the seamless marriage between traditional craftsmanship and modern manufacturing methods.


1. Preparing the Clay: The Foundation of Quality

Clay Preparation for 3D Printing

The journey of creating our ceramic vases begins with the careful preparation of clay—a crucial step that sets the foundation for the creative process. In our studio, at Drag And Drop, we employ a pug mill - a specialized tool that ensures the clay is well-prepared and ready for 3D printing.

Using a pug mill removes the air bubbles from the clay and guarantees consistency throughout the clay body, helping us achieve uniform layers in our 3D printed vases. Initially, we attempted to hand-condition the clay, and had some success to a degree, but inconsistencies arose, leading to varied outcomes in our prints. By incorporating a pug mill into our workflow freed us from the intense manual labor and we were able to focus more of our mental and physical energy into the other processes.

The consistency of the clay varies depending on the specific design we are aiming to print. For instance, the Melting Vase, which embodies the appearance of elegant dissolution requires a softer clay to achieve the desired effect. In contrast, the tall and slender silhouette of the tall Kilim Vase necessitates a less soft clay to prevent structural instability. By carefully selecting the appropriate clay consistency, we can bring our design visions to life, ensuring that each vase maintains its intended form and structural integrity.

We aim to minimize waste and maximize quality by repurposing the clay from failed or suboptimal prints that don’t meet our stringent quality standards. By re-feeding the clay through the pug mill, we can ensure that each print benefits from the best possible material, reducing both material waste (essentially 99% of it) and environmental impact. We've previously written an entire blog post discussing our sustainability commitments and impact so far.

2. The 3D Printing Process: Knitting with Clay

Clay 3D Printing Process

Clay 3D printing is a process that harnesses the power of compressed air and a maneuvering screw to guide malleable clay through a nozzle, depositing a succession of layers one on top of the other to gradually shape an object. This technology draws inspiration from the time-honored practice of coil building, one of the oldest ceramic techniques. With each layer added, the object's form begins to take shape, precisely orchestrated by the precision of the machine. In a way, the convergence of traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology attributes a compelling new expression to the craft of coil building.

The creation of the Bulky Vase embraces a distinct methodology that draws its inspiration from the craft of knitting. Notably, what sets this process apart is the deliberate inclusion of mid-air printing. Each layer unfolds with a rhythmic succession of segments and loops. The segments are deposited upon the previous layer, while the loops are printed suspended in the air. This intentional suspension enables the clay to gracefully cascade, guided by the gravitational forces at play. It is through this symbiotic dance of clay and gravity that the loops take shape, imbuing the vase with a natural and organic curvature that breathes life into its very essence.

By leveraging the precision 3D printing, we maximize its creative potential, resulting in the creation of vases like Bulky that showcase an artful knitted texture that invites tactile exploration.


3: The Drying Process: A Delicate Balance of Patience and Environmental Factors

As the vases emerge from the 3D printer, they embark on a transformative phase where moisture slowly dissipates, leaving behind a more solid, yet fragile structure. With a drying period spanning several days, each vase is granted the necessary time to mature and solidify, ensuring its structural integrity and minimizing the risks of unsightly cracks.

It is through this harmonious interplay of time and environmental factors like temperature and humidity that our vases achieve a state of readiness, poised to embark on the next chapter of their journey.


4. Quality Inspection: Attentive Craftsmanship and Finishing Touches

Hand finishing touches on 3D Printed Vase

With discerning eyes, our skilled craftsmen tirelessly scrutinize each vase, ensuring it meets the highest standards. They examine for imperfections, uneven layers, and potential cracks, thus assuring structural integrity and longevity.

Applying their expert hands and artistic eye, they bestow finishing touches, smoothing the bottoms to protect furniture and honing the rims for the seamless placement of flower arrangements.

Our unwavering commitment to craftsmanship and attention to detail guarantees that every vase embodies beauty, grace and functionality, bringing joy to those who appreciate fine crafted ceramics.


5. Bisque Firing: Transforming Clay into Ceramic

Once completely dry, the 3D printed vases are carefully loaded in the kiln, placed in an optimal way that maximizes the limited enclosure to optimize energy consumption. The vases undergo an initial bisque firing process at 900°C that plays a crucial role in strengthening their ceramic structure. This transformative stage converts the unfired bone-dry clay from a fragile state to a porous and durable state known as ceramic. By subjecting the vases to controlled heat, the clay undergoes chemical changes that enhance its resilience and stability. The purpose of this firing is to prepare the vases for the subsequent glazing phase.


6. Glazing: Preparing the Ceramic Vases to become Waterproof

During the glazing process, our skilled craftsmen meticulously apply a layer of glaze by hand to the inner surface of the bisque-ware. The main objective of glazing is to establish a waterproof barrier, ensuring the vases can securely contain water without any leakage. To maintain precision, our craftsmen utilize a natural wax coating on the outer surface near the vase's rim, effectively preventing any glaze from spilling over.

After applying the glaze, we allow it to dry thoroughly. A meticulous inspection follows, ensuring any minor spills are delicately removed using a small brush.


7. Final Glaze Firing: Achieving Waterproofing and Durability

Final Kiln Firing of 3D Printed Ceramics

The vases are loaded into the kiln for the final glaze firing process. During the firing, the wax layer used for protecting the outside surface for spills is the first to evaporate completely. Between 1050°C and 1250°C, depending on the glaze and clay type, as the glaze melts and fuses with the body of the vase, the vibrant colors of the ceramics are brought to life by the higher temperature, becoming more intense and captivating. The subsequent slow cooling process in the kiln ensures the durability and stability of the waterproof vases.

This crucial step adds functionality to the vases and also enhances their visual appeal, as the intensified colors showcase the true beauty of the vase’s designs.

Drag And Drop Stamp on 3D Printed Ceramics

8. Final Steps

In the final stage of production, our vases undergo rigorous testing to ensure their quality and functionality. We conduct a meticulous 24-hour water proofing test, filling each vase with water and closely monitoring for any signs of leakage. This rigorous examination guarantees that vases that leave our studio are of the highest quality and that our customers can rest assured that they are waterproof.

Once our vases pass the stringent quality checks, we proudly stamp them with our Drag And Drop logo. This emblem serves as a testament to the comprehensive quality assurance process each vase undergoes, ensuring that it meets our exacting standards. With this mark, we confidently release our vases into the world, ready to bring joy and elegance to the homes and spaces they adorn.

Bulky 3D Printed Ceramic Vase in Context

At Drag And Drop, our unwavering dedication to quality, sustainability, and innovation shines through in every ceramic vase from our Ceramic Collection.

The journey of crafting these exquisite pieces is a harmonious blend of traditional techniques and technological advancements. It begins with the meticulous preparation of clay, ensuring uniformity and consistency as the foundation. Through the precision of 3D printing, layer by layer, the vases come to life, revealing intricate textures and captivating designs inspired by the beauty of nature. Meticulous glazing and firing processes transform them into waterproof and durable objects, while our rigorous quality inspection guarantees flawless craftsmanship. To ensure their functionality, we subject each vase to a thorough 24-hour water proofing test, ensuring their ability to hold water securely.

Drag And Drop 3D Printed Ceramic Vases Collection

By blending the creative potential of technology with the artistry of handmade ceramics, we invite you to appreciate the meticulous process behind these captivating creations and explore our beautiful Ceramic Collection.

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