3D Printing Lessons from Ancient Egyptian Ceramic Art

shawabi egypt art sculpture 3d printing

None of Egypt’s pyramids existed.  Khafre wouldn’t commission the Great Pyramid of Giza for another 1500 years.  But some time around 4000 BCE an Egyptian artist discovered the secret. This secret was the wonderful alchemy which transformed sand, ash, calcite lime, copper and fire into a lustrous blue-green gem worthy of the pharaohs.  Faience, also known as Egyptian paste, is the basis for the world’s first glazed ceramic.  The faience recipe improved and spread to Persia,  Turkey and througout the Indus valley.  Now researchers from the University of Western England believe faience may also be the key to better 3D printing.

The Egyptian word for Faience is tjehenet which means “That which shines” and the future does seem bright for this ancient technology.  Professor Stephen Hoskins, Director and David Huson, Research Fellow from the University of Western England’s Center for Fine Print Research received an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to study the application of faience to computer controlled 3D printing.
Professor Hoskins explains how the ceramic powder is carefully laid down in thin layers to make strong and incredibly complex shapes.  These ceramic 3D artifacts have better aesthetic properties than plastic or plaster based 3D printing.  He explained to Phy.org :
“It is fascinating to think that some of these ancient processes, in fact the very first glazed ceramics every created by humans, could have relevance to the advanced printing technology of today. We hope to create a self-glazing 3D printed ceramic which only requires one firing from conception to completion rather than the usual two.”


Photo of Shawabti of Lady Sati (1390-1352 BCE) by David Liam Moran via Wikimedia commons.


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