Products and Design

The future of 3D Printed Ceramics with NCECA

Technology is not a replacement for hand crafted. It is however, a tool that can add significant value to your work.

Last week, the Shapeways Porcelain team attended NCECA, the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts 50th anniversary conference. Now, I am not a native member of the Ceramic Arts community but I can honestly say that the future of digital ceramics art is very, very bright.

Shapeways porcelain team Liz New and Albert Pfarr on exhibit with our 3D Printed Porcelain

Tech is Not a Four Letter Word to Hand Made

Ceramics is historically a hand made tradition, so when Shapeways arrived at NCECA, I was excited to see that the tech-centric, 3D-printed porcelain was not only received well within the community, but that ceramicists are innovating their own additive ceramic processes as well.

Overall, we saw four processes of 3D-printed ceramics at NCECA: Clay extrusion, FDM mold making, powder-based ceramic printing, and our very own Shapeways special, porcelain printing.

Each of these technologies offer interesting and different benefits to makers; for instance, extruding wet clay allows for the creation of unusual profiles that can be modified by hand after printing, ultimately creating a more fine-touch experience for makers.

If your goal is to then sell that product, you can bring it over to Shapeways (3D scan it, maybe?) and use our platform to make sure that piece is distributed to your customer base. Eliminating the need to continually reproduce more popular designs by hand ultimately allows the artist more time to focus on creating new work.

Extruded Ceramic, exhibited by SUNY New Paltz

Clay extruded pot with hand-pinched detailing at the top by Bryan Czibesz

The majority of the 3D Printed ceramic processes were showcased in the first ever Clay Fab Lab exhibit at NCECA. The Clay Fab Lab was spearheaded by Shoji Satake of West Virginia University, and exhibited the work and processes of over five different universities from around the U.S.

Some of our favorite work from the Clay Fab Lab was created by Bryan Czibesz (SUNY New Paltz) and Richard Burkett (San Diego University).

Bryan Czibez and Richard Burkett with their 3D printed ceramic work

The presence of digital fabrication methods at NCECA reflects how fast an overall paradigm shift is in full swing for the ceramicists’ maker community.  While technology will never replace handmade traditions, it is a new tool that allows for exploration of unique shapes and ideas to come to life in this wonderful medium.

Overall, our experience at NCECA was amazing. Not only did I learn so much about the ceramics practice, but I learned about the core values of making, enabling and mentorship that keeps this community operating on a higher frequency. You could truly feel the rising energy of the conference hall as it filled with artists each day.

What else did we do while in Kansas City?  Well, we managed to make some new friends at Maker Village KC and host a last minute meetup where we talked shop, drank beer, and hung out around the fire pit — which proved to be a successful escape from the hectic St Paddy’s Day festivities that were taking over the streets of Kansas City.

Kansas City maker Jo Kamm, Maker Village KC co-founder, Nick Ward-Bopp and friends!

Of course, we couldn’t leave Kansas City without checking out the legendary BBQ. We capped off our long days with burnt ends at Arthur Bryants! (It was a week filled with BBQ for me. You can read about my SxSW protein bingeing here.)

Liz New, Albert Pfarr & Garth Johnson at Arthur Bryants BBQ

Interested in exploring printing an idea in porcelain using 3D modeling and printing?   Join us at or just email me, and I will help you get your project started.


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