The Ceramic Morphologies pavilion, erected at the Cevisama Tile Fair, illustrated the design possibilities of a new ceramic 3D printing method.
A team from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, in collaboration with the Spanish Institute for Ceramic Technology, developed this prototype project for the additive manufacturing of ceramic building components at an industrial scale.

In addition to showcasing the expressive potential of ceramic 3D printing, the team also tested the adaptation of principles of thermodynamic heat transfer to 3D printed geometry, after creating mathematical models to predict the thermal behaviour of the system.

Thermal behaviour
The pavilion’s pyramidal shape facilitates upward air movement, while the interior geometry impacts the thermal exchange between ambient air and the interior mass.

While the exterior of the pavilion is smooth and uniform, the interior surface is heavily contoured and textured, designed to optimise the ratio of surface area to thermal mass and maximise the potential for cooling through natural ventilation and buoyancy effects.

Ceramic elements
A proprietary clay extrusion system and 3-axis armature were used to produce each of the pavilion’s 552 unique ceramic elements, ranging from 260 to 545mm in length, and 70 to 150mm in height. Each element was sized according to its position within the structure, the dimensional constraints of the printing bed, and a maximum allowable toolpath length.

A parametric model
The team developed a novel computational approach to generate the surface geometry of the pavilion, discretise the form into individual bricks and accommodate for the structural metal frame. Toolpath geometry and machine code are also generated directly within the parametric model.

The digital workflow enabled the research team to account for shrinkage during the drying and firing process, reduce the overall printing time and material consumption, and tune the stability of individual bricks.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to ASCER for the information given to write this article.

Quick facts:
•    The pavilion will be 3,2m x 3,6m wide and 3m tall when completed.
•    A total of 184 elements, representing a third of the entire structure, were displayed at Cevisama. These required 358 hours of printing time and 19,84km of extruded clay bead.
•    Gaps between pieces allow for tolerances in the production.
•    The modules can be bonded with mortar for permanent installations or, for temporary applications, can be dry-stacked and secured to a support frame.