One of the best attributes of makers is their ability to take something that’s been firmly established, stand back, view it from an entirely new light and find a completely new way to approach it. Jade Crompton is one such person who possesses this unique ability. Her “something” is ceramics, which is an art form dating back more than 20,000 years. In a perfect marriage of ancient and modern, Crompton’s new approach to ceramics involves 3D printing molds in slip casting to produce more detailed and precise designs.
Recently, Crompton took time away from her artwork and Master’s studies at Liverpool Hope University to talk about how she uses SOLIDWORKS in her art. Part one of this two-part Q&A will cover her 3D printing process and how SOLIDWORKS factors into the equation.
SOLIDWORKS: Ceramics is a very traditional practice – why does it need to be modernized?
Jade: To create something new, I enjoy using ceramics as a material for making but I wasn’t happy with how other designers were using it. I was bored and uninspired.
SOLIDWORKS: Where does SOLIDWORKS come into this modernization? How does it inspire you to make ceramics more artistic?
Jade: SOLIDWORKS is what I use to produce my designs through creating my vessel shapes and producing separate geometric shapes and attaching them in assemblies. It allows me to plan my designs before spending the time making the moulds, casting and then not liking it. It also allows me to plan the mould, whether the design is possible to make a mould, how many parts it will be and where the seemliness will be. Using SOLIDWORKS to design my models creates a new, sharp aesthetic that cannot be achieved through hand-built ceramics.
SOLIDWORKS: What has been your favorite project in SOLIDWORKS to date?
Jade: My favorite project to date has been my mould for a mould, where I used SOLIDWORKS to produce a miniature vase design, make a mould within the software, then made a mould of each mould part again, which I could then have 3D printed. The 3D printed moulds allowed me to pour liquid plaster into them, which produced a casting mould for the original miniature vase design.
SOLIDWORKS: How did SOLIDWORKS help you design this project?
Jade: SOLIDWORKS has many very useful features for ceramicists and designers, for example creating moulds, I used the combine tool to separate my design model from a mould part. I also used the split tool to separate the model into separate parts so I could work on more complex designs. I also used the split tool when creating the laser-cut Perspex designs, which quickly sliced my designs into the 5mm layers.
It’s difficult to only choose one of the rendering tools and SOLIDWORKS drawing tools helped me greatly too. Renderings allow me to see designs more realistically in many material varieties and colours. I can also use the SOLIDWORKS drawing application, which allows me to produce detailed design sheets, which show me a variety of views to my designs, apply dimensions and notes for more professional purposes.
SOLIDWORKS: What gave you the idea to use a 3D printer to create a mold?
Jade: The idea to create a 3D-printed mould was accidental, which is how many of my ideas come, but I was looking for companies that print in plaster to speed up my product making without 3D printing in ceramic as eventually it would cost too much to print every piece and ceramic printing is too unrefined for my work. However, 3D printed plaster is printed in powder and cured and so would not have the absorbency liquid plaster does for casting. Absorbency is needed in a mould to create a ceramic wall in the mould. So by creating a basic 3D-printed mould to make a plaster mould part would allow me to get the absorbency, accuracy and speed up the making process considerably.
Here is Jade’s process in six steps:
I design my final product in SOLIDWORKS
I produce the mould around the model using the combine tool and assemblies
I then make a mould around the original mould
These are the parts I have 3D printed, and I pour plaster between the model
Example of casting from a mould
In part two, Jade will share her perceptions on the future of 3D printing, what she tells people who think it’s a fad and how she plans on building her career as a designer. You can follow Jade on Twitter @, browse her website or keep up to date on projects via her blog.