KTP helps save traditional printing process

KTP helps save traditional printing process

Success story by UWE Bristol

 

Burleigh mainUWE Bristol’s Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) has made the shortlist for the Times Higher Education (THE) Awards in the category of ‘Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration’ for its Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Burleigh Pottery.

By contributing its expertise on inks, printing techniques and much more throughout the two-year KTP, the University has helped the company save a traditional printing process from dying out. This has led to dozens of iconic designs being preserved and the possibility of creating brand new patterns.

Part of the Denby Group, Burleigh Pottery is well known internationally for its finely decorated teapots, cups, table and home wares.

Burleigh is the only company in the world that still uses underglaze tissue printing, developed for the ceramics industry in the 1780s. This process includes the intaglio printing of ceramic ink from hand engraved copper rollers onto tissue paper, which is then applied by hand to unglazed pots and rubbed on the reverse to transfer the pattern.

However, the pottery company needed to find a solution to an urgent problem. Hand engraving in this format was becoming a vanishing craft, as skilled hand engravers were no longer available and fragile originals needed frequent re-engraving. This made the creation and maintenance of plates and rollers increasingly difficult.

To address this challenge, the CFPR helped the company optimise printing processes, including determining optimum kiln firing temperatures, performing over 250 trials and adjustments within the printing process, and monitoring printing temperature. This led to the incorporation of new rollers into its production process.

KTP associate Alison Howell, who oversaw the implementation of the rollers as part of the factory’s workflow, as well as contributing to the process of aligning the colours by developing new inks.

The success of this project has enabled Burleigh to consolidate its commercial future, protect existing jobs, increase employment opportunities, improve export performance and retain the unique manufacturing skills base.

Howell said: “Just before the KTP, Burleigh’s only ink supplier went out of business. One of our greatest challenges was therefore to find a workable recipe for the finished colour to achieve consistency when the colour is applied to the ware.”

Another of the challenges was implementing the new system in the factory. Professor Stephen Hoskins, who is Director of the CFPR, said: “Burleigh’s factory is very traditional and one of the challenges was to persuade the workers that the system would not affect their jobs. Luckily Alison has a good working relationship with the workforce and this was crucial to the success of the project.”

The project’s breakthrough was a technique to enhance images digitally from old plates and rollers, generating a digital file of a perfect engraving that could then be converted back into a physical object.

The success of this project has enabled Burleigh to consolidate its commercial future, protect existing jobs, increase employment opportunities, improve export performance and retain the unique manufacturing skills base.

Clive Price, who is Operations Manager at Burleigh, said: “The KTP has allowed the company to secure its future, and the knowledge and capabilities acquired through the project have allowed new processes to be created.”

Talking about the project’s nomination for the Times Higher Awards, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Steve West said: “We are extremely proud and delighted that our links with industry and the opportunities they open for students are being recognised by the shortlisting of the Burleigh project.”

The winners of this category in the awards will be announced on Thursday 29 November at a gala event at Grosvenor House Hotel, London.

Published: 28 September 2018

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