an effect on glaze properties. Without the computer, I probably would not bother
Kiln design is another natural for the computer. All of the calculations of heat
input and loss, orifice sizing and the like can be done quickly by the machine. I
have been doing consulting on kilns for the last 12 years and now that I am using
the machine to help I can generate a design much more quickly and with more detailed
information than was practical by hand. This gives me more freedom to play with
a design, and saves my clients money. Now I can easily figure out such things as
how much heat is lost through and stored in a refractory wall and how long it will
take to recover money spent on additional insulation. These types of calculations
take a long time on a pocket calculator.
Computers can control and monitor equipment also. By adding an interface, you can
easily set up a recording pyrometer. It samples temperature at set time intervals
and stores the readings for later recall and graphing. It is also easy to add an
output port to control a contactor which can control the elements on an electric
kiln. This paired with the appropriate software makes a computerized kiln controller.
The software is the hardest part, but as interest develops, it will become available
and will allow the studio clayworker to enjoy some of the repeatability which industry
has had for years.
Unfortunately, until there is widespread use of computers by potters, applications
software for specific ceramics only problems will be hard to find commercially. There
has already been some software published, and more will follow I am sure. But for
a while most will be written by potters for their own use. You will only need to
learn to program if you want software to do something which you cannot find in stock
commercial software. Programming is not hard to learn, but it is time consuming.
I do know potters who have hired professional programmers to write programs for
them, but that is an expensive solution to the problem.
I am really looking forward to seeing what artists, potters in particular, will be
doing with computers during the next few years. These machines should have a huge
impact on how we live and work. Soon, we will be able to search and exchange visual
information with the same ease as data using computer controlled laser disk technology.
I am sure that photographic slides as a visual medium are going to be replaced very
soon with digitized equivalents. The only thing which is certain is that there will
be wonderful uses of which we have not yet dreamed.