We are continually amazed at the ingenuity of the Shapeways 3D print service; they seem to come up with new materials for their service almost every other week. Typically they experiment with them to see how well they are accepted and then decide whether and how to continue offering them. In the past they've pioneered the use of metals and various types of plastics.
Today's new material is quite different: Glazed Ceramics. You can now print an actual coffee mug that would be no different than the one in your cupboard. The technology is a mix of 21st century CE and 21st century BCE. A very fine ceramic powder is mixed with a binder and then 3D printed into the desired shape. This unfinished model is fired and glazed in the traditional manner to produce the final ceramic object.
As usual, there are some peculiar restrictions when using Glazed Ceramic, simply due to the physical properties of the print material. You must have walls at least 3mm thick and you cannot print objects that interlock with each other. You also must be careful to provide at least some spot on the bottom where the object can rest while being fired.
The most interesting aspect of this material is that Glazed Ceramic prints aren't priced by weight or even by volume. No, instead they are priced by surface area! We suspect this is due to the fact that the surface itself might be the primary cost driver as glaze must be applied and fired.
Looking forward, we're really, really hoping Shapeways will test Firm Dark Chocolate soon.