Constructing the 3D ceramic printer
Over the course of 2015 through 2017, professor Qi Zhu in the architecture program and professor and ceramic artist Juan Santiago in the art department worked collaboratively with the DVC robotics class to build a 3D ceramic printer based on the model developed by inventor and ceramic artist Jonathan Keep.  Mr. Keep has developed an extensive website with advanced ceramic work and has also published the details for the construction of the hexapod ceramic printer on his website - a design based on a variety of parts readily obtainable through the internet, hardware stores and various distributors. 

The printer was completely built from scratch using the skills of DVC students not only to construct the hardware but to program, calibrate and adjust the final performance of the machine.  Funding for the project was provided through the National Science Foundation project grant which focused on digital modeling, analysis and fabrication.

Refinements and experimentation
Utilizing RepRap components and a hexapod design, the printer is powered by a series of stepper motors and utilizes compressed air for extrusion of a soft clay that can be deposited into an infinite variety of three dimensional shapes.  Professor Qi Zhu worked extensively with students to calibrate the machine and adjust the extrusion rate and layer deposition of clay.  Juan Santiago worked throughout the Fall semester with students to develop a consistency of clay that was compatible with the machine and capable of withstanding the high temperatures of firing and glazing and then fired and glazed all objects in his studio in Oakland California.

Extrusions and experiments in form
The initial prints were based on extruded forms for small objects in vase or container shapes.  These extrusions were easy to produce within short periods of time, relatively easy to glaze and fire in the kiln,  These objects were displayed at the 2017 ATE conference in Washington DC showcasing projects and achievements funded through the NSF project grant.

The potential for this project to become integrated in new curriculum in the art department is being explored, and further experimentation and developments are planned for the future.

For more information on Jonathan Keep and his ceramic printer please see his site here