We have shown a lot of plastic 3D printing, but pottery? Every arts and craft lodge at summer camp is out of business as the Solheim Rapid Manufacturing Laboratory figures out how to make a computer throw a pot.
With most 3D printing, an computer object is sliced into layers and either a laser or an inkjet print out a 2D layer of something, which is built up into 3D layers.
Mark Ganter, Duane Storti and Ben Utela explain the process in pottery in Ceramics Monthly:
The 3DP system's software slices the object into layers ranging from 0.003 inches to 0.013 inches thick. A layer of powder matching the thickness of the digital layer (in our case 0.005 inches) is spread onto a build platform, or print bed. An ink-jet printing system deposits binder into the powder layer corresponding to the image of the current layer. The print bed is lowered, another layer of powder is spread, another slice is printed, and the system continues until all layers are processed. When the 3D print is finished, our object composed of bound powder is supported in a bed of unbound powder. We now remove the unbound powder to reveal our finished object by a combination of manual brushing, vacuum removal and compressed air (see p. 38). At times, one feels a bit like an archeologist at a dig site—and often with just as much excitement.
The resulting fired objects are light and quite porous (they are essentially ceramic sponges), so an infiltration and multiple glazing process is required to make the objects "functional". I personally love the fact that the process of revealing the product from the build looks like an archaeological process.
Neat Stuff. Soon we will printing out our china before dinner. More in Ceramics Monthly