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The coffee cup-a-day project


November 21, 2011

Designer Bernat Cuni made one cup a day for thirty days

(Image: Cunicode)

Designer Bernat Cuni made one cup a day for thirty days (Image: Cunicode)

Image Gallery (17 images)

Prolific Spanish designer Bernat Cuni has come up with a whimsical way to help bring the relatively new 3D ceramic printing process into the mainstream. Recently, he unleashed his creative energies on what he termed the "coffee cup-a-day" project to highlight the versatility and immediacy of what is also known as "additive manufacturing" - the layer by layer construction of tangible objects from digital models. The results, while not necessarily the most utilitarian, could be just the thing for the coffee drinker who has it all.

"The cups are designed as a creative exercise and as a proof of concept for digital fabrication, in order to achieve something unthinkable some time ago: Create a product from the idea to the consumer in less than 24 hours," Cuni said.

Each of the thirty diminutive espresso cups in Cuni's amusing array was conceived, designed, modeled and fabricated within a 24-hour period. They're printed in food-safe, heat-resistant and recyclable glazed ceramics by Shapeways, a partner in the venture, but they aren't inexpensive. Prices range from US$36 to $81 for the roughly 45 mm (1.7 inch) diameter cups made available for purchase.

Construction of each cup takes about four hours and begins with the deposition of an organic binder on a bed of ceramic powder. Once that layer is completed, more ceramic powder is distributed on top, then more binder and so on until the model is complete. The entire matrix is then heated in an oven, which solidifies the binder-laden powder. The unbound ceramic material is then cleaned away from the solidified cup and it's prepared for the next several steps in the process.

At this point, the cup is solid but delicate, and so must be fired in a kiln at high temperature to permanently lock in the structure. The piece emerges with a rough surface, which is pre-glazed with a water-based spray, then re-fired in the kiln at a lower temperature. This smooths the surface a bit and paves the way for the final glaze coat, which is sprayed on, as well. After the final firing, the cup takes on that familiar shiny, durable surface we've come to expect from traditional ceramics.

Cuni says "Surprisingly, the idea generation has been the easiest part of the project. I still have tons of cup ideas in my head that were not designed: a banana handle cup, a toilet cup, a Matrioska cup, a melted cup, a mustache cup ..."

All in all, Cuni's cups are sure to be great conversation starters. With Christmas just around the corner, they may be just the ticket for that caffeine freak in your life. And if you don't see something that grabs you, visit Cuni's site for help on designing one of your own.

Source: Cunicode

Check out the video below for more on the fabrication process:

About the Author
Randolph Jonsson A native San Franciscan, Randolph attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland before finding his way to the film business. Eventually, he landed a job at George Lucas' Industrial Light + Magic, where he worked on many top-grossing films in both the camera and computer graphics departments. A proud member of MENSA, he's passionate about technology, optimal health, photography, marine biology, writing, world travel and the occasional, well-crafted gin and tonic! All articles by Randolph Jonsson

Building a layer at a time is a novel way of approaching the construction of things smaller than buildings. Ceramics can withstand extremes in temperature and friction. I can\'t wait to see what people come up with with this technology.

Carlos Grados

You think $36-81 is not expensive for a coffee cup?


@Strauski He actually said they aren\'t INexpensive. Which is a wordy way of saying they\'re expensive.

Dustin Lovell

This technology could actually make a better coffee cup than conventional processing. It would be possible to design pores in the cup walls that would act as insulators making the hot or cold beverage stay at best drinking temperature longer and keeping your hands from getting burned.

Bruce McIntosh

Umm - it says that they \"aren\'t INexpensive\" (my emphasis). And the technology to produce 3-D objects in layers has been around for a while now (patent for stereolithography was filed in 1984, and selective laser sintering was developed in the 1980s). It is possible to make things in a wide range of materials: plastics and rubbery materials, metals, ceramics, paper (\"laminated object manufacturing\", or LOM), starch-based materials, sand - even chocolate. Some machines can combine materials in a single structure. People have been coming up with things using this general technology for at least 25 years - and machines can be built at home to do so - the technology is quite widespread.


I want the toilet shaped cup that was mentioned.

Jeremiah Jordan-Fields

Check out the site for pictures of the real cups. The pictures here are 3D renderings. The real ones are not so good looking.

I suspect the reason why is Shapeways is dipping the cups in glaze instead of brushing or spraying.

My family owned and operated a ceramics business for many years, I grew up in the business. The best way to apply glaze is just enough to fully coat and seal, forming a seamless glass coating when fired in a kiln.

The only time we used anything close to dipping was pouring clear glaze into pitchers and vases, turning the item around to fully coat the inside then draining them upside down to get out as much as possible.

It would be nice if Shapeways would sell the items unglazed so people with their own kilns (and who know how to apply glaze without flooding the details) can do it themselves.

Gregg Eshelman
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