Catenary Pottery Printer

It can be refreshing to see people approach well-known topics from an unusual angle.

A Chilean office has developed what they call a catenary pottery printer. It’s an analogue 3D printing machine that uses traditional materials such as wood, textile and clay.

The designers, GT2P (which stands for ‘great things to people’), wanted to explore how to use standard machines to produce non-standard results. The catenary printer is a great example.

A large wooden frame is lined with hooks that serve as fixed points. Attached to these hooks, cables support a semi-porous fabric in a range of shapes. By adjusting the fastening of the cables, the shape of the fabric is altered, which subsequently changes the shape of the output. Clay is poured in from the top and drips through in to leave an endless range of forms that slowly harden into a set shape.

Using this machine, a great number of variables can be experimented with. The designers mention a range of factors. These include adjust fluid weight, fabric tensions, size and material, but also the position and number of anchor points in three dimensions, the horizontal limit to get a flat bottom, slip-casting volumes, drying times, clay viscosity and type, the quantity of water, and so on.

Even the slightest change in any of these factors has a huge influence on the output. In this sense, parametric design becomes more about materiality and forces than about digital computers and programming.

The fabrics used so far are gauze, muslin and lycra, all of which have comparable porosity. The designers have created a set of catenary printed objects, such as tableware, candle holders and hanging lights.

Next steps include larger objects, such as printing tables, stools and mirrors. The studio is looking towards using other materials besides clay for these objects, such as wax or catalysed resin.


Images and more info via G2TP.