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Three-Dimensional SURFACES: Touching Emotions

3d effects in ceramic surfaces

After a long period where graphics dominated the scene of ceramic surface decoration, it’s time for a new protagonist to emerge. In recent years, graphic standards have reached remarkably high levels in terms of depth and chromatic complexity, almost to the point of extremity, ultimately pushing research to explore different avenues.
Today, great attention is focused on three-dimensionality, on the possibility of stimulating not only sight but also the sense of touch, activating other areas of our brain.

Technologies for three-dimensionality of the ceramic surfaces

Behind this sophisticated theme, connected to neuromarketing, there is a considerable technological, applicative, and material complexity. These are areas where technicians’ know-how is essential for achieving satisfying results. From a digital point of view, there are two methods that can be used to obtain three-dimensional surfaces: additive and subtractive.
With the additive method, relief is created by using digital adhesives that fix one or more grits, or through the wet application of digital glazes using next-generation machines.
The subtractive method instead involves generating a cavity by digitally depositing materials that physically or chemically interact with the surroundings. The physical action entails hydrophobicity (engrave), while the chemical action exploits fusibility (engrave after).

Applications and materials for three-dimensionality of the ceramic surfaces

Both applications offer various advantages, the main ones being:
the possibility of working directly on a smooth support or fitting onto a structured support;
no limitation on the number of structures created;
facilitation in digitizing the glazing line with the possibility of combining multiple structuring effects, thus achieving a high surface naturalness;
increase in the economic value of the finished product thanks to a particularly appreciable aesthetic.
The application of grits and effects can occur before or after digital decoration, which is why we talk about 3D Before technology and 3D After technology. In this graphic, the distinction of the applicative sequence is clearly visible, generating two types of surfaces that are equally natural.

The materials that make the difference in these types of applications are:

the grits, where the particle size is fundamental to obtaining particular material effects;
adhesive materials, namely adhesives, which are distinguished by solvent-based and water-based;
inks with engraving and sinking effects.

How to choose the right grit?

Depending on the final effect you want to achieve and the variables at play, there are multiple considerations, in particular:
chemical composition: it is crucial to establish the Before or After position of the applicative machines and ensure that the grits are approved for different digital technologies;
particle size: fundamental to determining the touch and final aesthetic appearance of the surface;
interaction with surrounding materials, especially engobe, glaze, and digital.
Care in the selection of materials, partners, and the combination of these elements determines the success of ceramic realization.

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