Burley Clay: From Handmade to 3D Printed
Located in Roseville, Ohio, brothers Zane and Dr. Samuel Burley founded the Burley Clay Products Company in 1923. The company has seen a transition from large stoneware crocks and jugs for home use, to a production of garden pottery and birdbaths. Southeast Ohio is an area famous for its stoneware clay, and many stoneware companies located in towns such as Nelson McCoy, Friendship, Roseville, Zanesville, Brush, Hull, and Watt.
As the only continuously operating clay products company in Southeast Ohio, the company continues to make handmade, high-quality garden pots and birdbaths from the finest clay. Their methods of producing the pottery range from using high-tech machinery such as hydraulic and ram presses to the age-old techniques of jiggering and casting. Burley Clay maintains absolute values in everything they produce: “an emphasis on quality, efficiency, craftsmanship, and attention to detail.” Today, the company employs 50-60 workers, depending on the season.
By working with Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Towards Sustainability (LIGHTS) though the IDEA Lab at Zane State College, Burley Clay found an exciting opportunity to collaborate with a local manufacturer to provide the training and tools for economical implementation of emerging technologies into their existing processes.
According to Chip Clark, Lab Director, “The primary goal is to provide affordable access to this technology and tools for everyone in the community.” He continued, “Earlier this year Burley Clay Products contacted us and inquired about our ability to help them use 3D printing to refine or improve their current process of product design. After collaboratively looking at their existing processes, we surmised that integrating 3D printing into their process was entirely feasible and will drastically speed up design, reduce cost, improve working conditions for employees, and give them access to markets that they currently cannot economically reach.”
As corporate members of the IDEA Lab, local staff assists the long standing business in implementing printing in stages of their production process. Any one of these improvements will give Burley Clay a much stronger presence in their industry and hopefully will provide them with the opportunity to expand their current production capabilities.
Although it is an established company that has been operating for decades, Burley Clay is excited to be working with LIGHTS. According to the Vice President of Sales and Marketing Services, Bobbi Bennett, “The program presents new opportunities, including its connection to the Idea Lab at Zane State College. The Lab provides access to new machinery and consequently will save the company money, increase jobs, and produce more quality pottery in the region.”
About LIGHTS: Ohio University's Innovation Center founded the LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability) program in 2016. LIGHTS' Innovation Network catalyzes the creation of companies to create high-wage jobs, and attract greater private investment in the coal-impacted regions of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The Appalachian Regional Commission generously funded the program because of its unique way of matching complex problems and opportunities facing corporations, communities, and individuals to a network of two strategically-placed Innovation Hubs and seven Gateways. New marketable products arise from these problems. The Gateways and Hubs are new business incubators and makerspaces serving a 28-county area.