From Digital to Analogue, or the Rebirth of a Teapot

In my research, I have explored using rapid prototyping technology to create computer-generated durable output solutions such as heat-resistant molds and positive objects made of ceramic material.

Since I was coming from the perspective of the 3D design and animation realm, I was well aware of the Martin Newell and Jim Blinn teapot experiments. It became obvious to me that the best icon I could possibly use to question the tradition of ceramic making with new technologies like rapid prototyping was Newell's teapot. Just as this object was first selected by Newell and Blinn based on its challenging aspects of shape and form, the teapot became one of the most challenging objects I could render in ceramic with this process.

Since the teapot is made of both positive and negative shapes, and since the handle resides away from the main body of clay, it requires a delicate balance of saturation and curing time for it to dry without breaking. I find particularly interesting the idea that it is now possible to create a functional object from a computer-assisted design. The model I am presenting this year has been bisked but has not been glazed in order to demonstrate the technology without hiding it.

Technical Overview
The teapot was rendered using an additive rapid-prototyping process from a digital 3D file. It is inspired by Martin Newell's original analogue Melitta teapot. Since Jim Blinn's rendering experiments were done using an Evans & Sutherland frame buffer, which unfortunately had the disadvantage of having nonproportional pixel appearance, he had to squash the model rather than scale the image in order to print it with its real proportion.

The first experiments made with the rapid-prototyping ceramic process were based on Blinn's squashed version, but ironically the squashed shape did not survive the heat of bisking. The rather distorted teapot that came out of the kiln had to go back to the original source, and the process had to re-engineered to create this SIGGRAPH 2006 model.

This is a representation of the layering extraction involved in the rapid prototyping process. By dividing by 10 the total amount of layers involved in the creation of the ceramic teapot it is possible to cut out the shape from slices of acrylic sheets.

This example is a good way to demonstrate the process and renders the negative shape in a see-through material.

Sebastien Dion
Bowling Green State University
sebastien.dion (at)