'UK’s oldest tile factory' secures 3D digital research funding

WHAT is said to be the UK’s oldest working ceramic tile producer is looking to embrace advanced, 3D technologies to tailor its heritage tile-making skills to the requirements of contemporary installations.

In so doing, it wants to secure a future for the age-old British craft of handcrafted tile-making. Craven Dunnill Jackfield, established in 1872, has teamed up with the Centre for Fine Print Research at University of West of England (UWE Bristol) in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) and secured funding for the 27-month project.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield has been manufacturing tiles for more than 140 years and says it’s today best known for its traditional tile-making skills, manufacturing handcrafted tiles for major restoration projects such as The Palace of Westminster, St George’s Hall in Liverpool and London Underground.

It says that in recent years, its unique skill-set has also been successfully applied to creating contemporary ceramic installations, such as the vast murals at the Olympic Park and manufacturing ornate, three-dimensional wall tiles for the hospitality sector.

‘Award-winning projects include faience bar-fronts for the Blues Kitchen chain of bars and feature walls for Jamie Oliver’s Barbecoa,’ says the company. ‘It’s this appetite for combining the appeal of heritage tile manufacture with contemporary installations which has inspired this unique KTP programme.’

Craven Dunnill Jackfield says it prides itself on the authenticity of the tiles it produces for restoration projects, which emulate those of the Victorian era. Whether encaustic, geometric or relief tiles, it continues to use many production techniques that date back to the late 19th century.

These include hand-modelling and the use of original master moulds, over 100 years old, to ensure the true underlying shape of a tile is reproduced, despite thick, uneven glazes and crazed surfaces.

Adrian Blundell, production director at Craven Dunnill Jackfield is heading up the KTP, working alongside Dr David Huson and Dr Peter Walters at UWE Bristol, to develop and implement 3D scanning and printing technologies which will complement the handmade nature of the product.  ‘3D technology is well-developed but with limited applications in product sectors such as period tile production, where inconsistency and hand-made characteristics are fundamental and desirable.

‘Working with UWE Bristol our aim is to unlock its potential, in so doing transforming the productivity of our design and modelling processes, and significantly reducing lead times from months to weeks.’
The KTP commenced September 2018 at Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s manufacturing sites in Ironbridge, Shropshire and Burslem, Staffordshire.
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