Continuous ink-jet printing using sol-gel “Ceramic” inks

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Although sol-gel processing is under intense world-wide investigation, the vast majority of interest in this technique is concerned with synthesis of engineering ceramics. Sol-gel has not been widely applied to the preparation of materials for use in conventional ceramics, such as tiles and tableware. This paper describes a novel application of aqueous sol-gel processing in which sol-gel based inks are used to decorate ceramic articles by continuous ink-jet printing. These inks contain major components of the colour for ceramic decoration in the form of a colloidal aqueous sol which dries to a gel after printing and is then converted to the coloured decoration on firing. The ink can be printed directly onto the ceramic, or printed onto paper and applied as a gel transfer. The key properties in formulating the inks are addressed and experiments are described that demonstrate this process. Its potential advantages over conventional decorating methods are discussed.