Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Digital printing of ceramics

Digital printing of ceramics and decals

Digital printing of decals and ceramic tiles is already well established. Computer generated images can be printed directly onto ceramic tiles via special inkjet systems. Alternatively a photocopier type system can be used to print onto decal paper. Of course both these systems require special machines and ceramic inks or toners to produce optimum results. Nevertheless these systems are causing a revolution in the ceramic tile industry.

The detail of decal printing

Ricoh desktop ceramic printer

In the case of digital decal, you can either create a drawing or photograph and then convert it to a digital image suitable for printing on to decal paper. The image is produced as a decal by a photocopier type machine. After printing the image is sealed to the paper with a covercoat and allowed to dry. The decal can then be applied in the same way as conventional decals by a water slide method. Decorators have the choice of either outsourcing decals (small quantities) or for large quantities buying a machine and toners and printing themselves..

The detail of ink jet printing of tiles

 Zr-Si- Pr 
 1250 °C

 Red Magenta 
 1250 °C

 1250 °C

 1250 °C

Primary 4 colours used in ink jet printing

In the case of ink jet printing, the digital image is converted to a ceramic image using a specially adapted ink jet printer and special inks. The ceramic tile passes beneath the printer head and the ink jet colour nozzles deposit the image on the tile.

Gamma Ink Jet Tile Printer
Typically up to 10 ceramic colours are used to produce high quality digital images, 4 similar to the primary colours shown above plus additional spot colours. Browns, coral reds and white are commonly used to fill gaps in the colour space. Special printer heads are used to cope with the highly abrasive ceramic inks. For maximum definition and colour intensity special glazes are sometimes used as the base for printing the coloured image. The printed item can be fired almost immediately after drying.

3d Printing of Ceramics

I am constantly amazed at the ceramic challenges I see each year. Whilst making pottery and ceramics is an ancient tradition, new industrial processes and products (or the re-introduction of many older techniques) continue to stretch the imagination.

3d printed sugar bowl
Both in the UK and USA, 3 dimensional digital printing is one such technique. Developed initially for rapid prototyping of plastic objects it is now being used for small special ceramic parts. The potential to build up a ceramic mug  layer by layer  from a computer image is certainly feasible.
 I have seen the initial prototypes which have been glazed and fired. Many technical challenges remain for this process to be viable commercially but I have no doubt that in the long term this will happen.
For more information about this technique see the link project below:-
 University of Bristol project

3d printing using liquid clay syringe

3d extruder printing
This type of printing is also in the early stages of development for ceramics. Many questions remain particularly control of rheology and removing air pockets and machine development.. However the picture on the right shows how the process works. An air powered syringe forces liquid clay out of the nozzle to build up the object in layers. The head could be computer controlled to map out a digital design.
Potentially the ceramic designer can be creative in designing complex forms as well as simple shapes.
Picture and link to more information kindly provided by Ceramic 3D Extruder (FabLabZuidLimburg) / CC BY-NC 3.0

So what does this mean to the hobby or studio potter?

The opportunity to make low cost efficient designs which can be personalised to meet your customer needs. Digital ceramic decals are already established and widely available. But keep following the progress of 3d printing as the potential is endless. Perhaps now is the time to look at ways these techniques can expand your opportunities?

More information and other technical articles on pottery and ceramics can be found at my website The Potters Friend. Go now to sign up for my free newsletter.


  1. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. Thanks for the share.
    Split face Tile

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Hello Ivan, did you use by yourself a modified Ricoh machine for ceramic decals? If so, I would like to share details between us. Thanks in advance, calin truta - romania (

  5. Sorry I have no personal experience of using a Ricoh machine


  6. 3D printing of ceramics, 3D printing using liquid clay syringe are very useful and valuable thing. thankyou sharing with us.

  7. Nice blog. Thanks for sharing useful information. Digital Printing

  8. Nice Blog, thanks for sharing that’s awesome
    digital printing

  9. Impressive…! I really like your blog.
    Thanks for giving this information
    Online Printing Company

  10. Nice Blog, thanks for sharing this Information. Also you can check the more about digital printing in our website.

  11. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful!
    Ceramic tile

  12. Impressed alot.I really like your blog.
    Thanks for the post
    digital printing

  13. I am regular to check every post of this blog as well as its other supportive and knowledgeable informative blog post. I appreciate efforts of owner to deliver such valuable information to people.โรงพิมพ์


  14. The blog and the post is absolutely fantastic! Lot of information is helpful in some or the other way. Keep updating the blog, looking forward for more content...Great job, keep it up. To get More Visit
    screen printing machine reviews and Buying Guides

  15. Nice blog. Thanks for sharing.
    Learned lot of information for your Blog.
    Digital printing


Please leave me a message and I will reply asap
Happpy Potting
The Potters Friend