As a lapsed potter from way back in the 70s, I have always had an abiding love for the ceramic arts. I realized that if I had had the capability of using ceramic decals, my creativity would’ve taken a giant leap because, well, I was no artist. I wanted to enhance my pots with something more than glaze and texture. Through a friend, I heard about the need for a true black ceramic decal printer that was reliable and affordable. According to him, potters using decals were tired of the sepia tones they were getting using some standard toners available with some laser printers. I set out to develop that product, realizing that what my company did was engineer laser printers to handle toners that had a great deal of inorganic pigment in their formulation.
My day job is running Rosetta Technologies (Link to rosettatechnologies.com), a MICR engineering company with major customers like IBM and the Ricoh Company. I had the knowledge to develop a new, inexpensive True Black decal solution. The CerPrint 3500 ceramic decal system was designed and developed over three long years to bring an affordable decal solution to studio potters, schools and universities. The goal was a deep, true black fired image. In the beginning I created a lot of wonderful , gray images. I kept at it, and eventually discovered a toner formulation, pigment and printer combination that gave me a great black fired image at various temperatures. The new combo also was forgiving using various applications and firing temperatures.
Young artists now training in schools and universities understand digital graphic technologies and are eager adopters. They connect technology and art much more readily that I do. They see the vast potential that marrying ceramics and digital decals offers. I got hooked on the idea and learned as I went, with the help of a few friends.
We introduced CerPrint about two years ago at NCECA. We’ve received great feedback from studio potters, artists and glass artists. I’m feeling pretty good about all the time and effort I put into this project and very happy that folks who are using it like what the CerPrint 3500 does for them and their work.
Let me tell you a little bit about the product. In upcoming blogs, I’ll get into basic techniques and processes. The foundation of the system is a 30-page per minute monochrome laser printer from Ricoh. The difficulty was developing a ceramic toner and finding the right internal printer settings to print a ceramic decal image that would have the image density and quality the market was calling for. As with most laser printers, this printer was not designed to handle a toner that contains a high percentage of an inorganic compounds such as pigment. Because designing toners containing a large percentage of inorganic compounds is exactly what my company does for a living, , I thought we could use a different compound instead of iron oxide. Rosetta’s founding business is creating high iron toners that run in various laser printers to print checks and other financial instruments.
To get True Black Ceramic decals, we had to have a very high percentage of the black pigment. That pigment changes the characteristics and behavior of the toner in the printer. So, we had to adjust many internal printer settings. Since toner in laser printers is transferred from the toner cartridge onto the paper through electrostatic charges, we had to make sure we had the correct charge in the toner for it to work, something that the additional pigment works against.
The CerPrint 3500 True Black Ceramic toner does not contain flux. To solve the problem, we use a decal paper that has a flux in the film. Print it, cut it out, soak, and apply—just like other decal papers. It fires out to a hard, vitreous, food safe, glossy finish, enhancing the printed black image at between 1200 and 1650-degrees Fahrenheit.
We also provide a paper that fires at a lower temperature (1200 degrees F) and works well for not only ceramics, but glass and enamel.
The CerPrint 3500 User Manual takes you through all the steps, including installation, setting up the drivers, techniques and firing schedules.
Visit our gallery page (Link to gallery page) to get an idea of the quality of the images and some designs and pieces from other studio potters who have been using the product. Check out the Gallery pages.
Next time, we’ll talk about some techniques and some additional tools that can increase the flexibility of the product.