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Digitalfire Insight

A downloadable program for Windows, Mac, Linux for doing classic ceramic glaze chemistry. It has been used around the world since the early 1980s.

Details

A ceramic glaze chemistry desktop application for Windows, Linux, Macintosh. It shows side-by-side recipes and their formulas. It is interactive in the sense that the chemistry impacts of changes to a recipe are immediately displayed and the process of formula-to-batch is automated. It stores recipe and material data (up to 200 materials) locally and does not communicate with any server or peer online.

Insight was first released in 1979 and has run on many operating systems since that time. As of 2021 it works on Mac, Windows and Linux. Insight is a classic glaze chemistry calculator. Its release marked the first time that people everywhere could easily do glaze chemistry, grow their understanding of glaze and learn how to solve problems like crazing, shivering, blistering, leaching, cutlery marking, etc.

From the beginning, it was designed to be able to see the recipes and chemistries of two glazes, side-by-side. This was accomplished by an in-memory materials database. Insight name-matched materials in recipes with those in the database to be able to compile the combined chemistry. Before graphical operating systems it used the box-drawing characters of the OS to create separate recipe and formula frames. Before menu-driven systems it used keyboard short-cuts to navigate through the horizontal menus at the bottom of the screen. During the early 1980s Insight migrated to color displays. Around 1990 it moved to graphical operating systems. During the 1990s, as systems became more powerful, it was able to do calculations live (the calculate-menu-choice was no longer needed). From the beginning it stored recipes in separate files on the disk (first in simple text format, then in XML). Around 2000 it moved to storing all data in an SQLite single-file database. Materials storage also evolved from text to XML to CSV files, Insight has always loaded the database at startup and maintained it in memory. The CSV format enabled people to manage their materials database outside of Insight using Excel or compatible spreadsheet software.

Early distribution of Insight was done by magazine advertising and mailing of diskettes and manuals. During the late 1980s this migrated to a BBS system that enabled customers to dial-in and search reference material. In 1995 distribution moved online and the reference materials grew to what is now digitalfire.com.

Related Information

Digitalfire Insight 4.1 running on DOS cerca 1983

This was on the IBM-PC, it was introduced in 1982. Until then Insight was running on Tandy Model 1 and 3 computers. The program was shipped on floppy disks. I was lightning fast, recalculating the chemistry as fast as you could push the calculate key. It could handle as many recipes as you had disk space for and knew about 100 materials and their chemistry. However only one recipe could be displayed at a time. Many of our customers stuck with the old DOS version of Insight well into the 2000s, even though the Windows version had long been available.

The main recipe window in Digitalfire Insight software

Insight installs on your Linux, Windows or Mac computer. It provides a very interactive way to comparing two recipes and their calculated formulas or analyses. As you make changes in the recipe you can see how it impacts the recipes. It is ideal for demonstrating concepts like unity, analysis,
formula, mole%, LOI, formula-to-batch conversion.

The New 2020 Digitalfire Reference Library is Here

The Digitalfire Reference Library on desktop and smartphone

It has morphed into a webapp, reflexive and menu-driven (based on Twitter Bootstrap). It now employs permanent URLs. And pages have logical, and hierarchical URLs (e.g. digitalfire.com/oxide/cao, digitalfire.com/material/feldspar). It correctly forwards 5000+ old URLs. Terms from the glossary automatically hotlink throughout (as do code-numbers for recipes, tests and firing schedules). The search field in the menu bar is area-specific (or all-area at digitalfire.com/home). Still no ads and no tracking. The UI displays from server #1, it calls the database API on #2, the email system on #3, media from #4 and insight-live.com from server #5! So it is super fast, flexible and expandable. There are new areas (e.g. projects, pictures, typecodes). Media displays better. Every page still has a contact form, so you can ask any question anywhere. What till you see what's coming!

Digitalfire Insight materials dialog window

Desktop Insight remembers materials (in its database) as formulas and their formula weights. From this it can calculate the LOI. Materials can have alternate names so they are more likely to be found in calculating recipes. This dialog provides tools for adding, editing, deleting, importing and exporting materials.

Digitalfire Insight 5.0 running on Windows 95

This was the Insight jump from the old DOS version to a modern graphical user interface. Although Insight was available in Window 3.1, Windows 95 was the first version that was good enough that people left DOS behind.

Digitalfire Insight 5.1 running on Windows 95

It is not really that dissimilar to Insight as it is today. It packed alot of power but people of the time were not inclined to believe that it was possible to do the chemistry that easily, or even that the chemistry was worthwhile learning.

Digitalfire Insight running on a Macintosh middle 90s

The Macintosh version used the same file formats as the Windows version right from the start. Macintosh customers however, were more likely to think that the program should think for them and more likely not to know which way to put the floppy disk in!

The Digitalfire glaze calculation worksheet for Excel

From the 1980s to 2000s we made this spreadsheet available. It stored materials and did the calculations in the same way that Insight did. We used it to verify that calculations were being done correctly and many customers downloaded it to learn more about the theory.

Desktop INSIGHT showing formula and analysis side-by-side

Desktop Insight was the first to enable users to compare two recipes and their formulas side-by-side and interactively update when recipe changes were made. It also enabled users to show formulas and analyses side-by-side.

Here is what digitalfire.com looked like in 1997!

We already had a large library of educational material (the predecessor of the Digitalfire Reference Library). The Foresight product was the fore-runner to insight-live.com today. And it was free like today. And we were warning people about the importance of safe glazes and understanding the "why" questions about the ceramic process.

Another reason that Insight-live.com exists

First, I need to record this as a recipe in my account at insight-live.com so it can be printed at any total, documented with pictures of it on different clays, firing schedules and how they affect it, general notes. And be accessible from anywhere with any device. Then I need to start working on improving it. With all that feldspar it is sure to craze, I need to reduce it and substitute the some of K2O it contributes for MgO (from talc). With all that clay (29 total) it is sure to crack while drying, I need to split it into part calcined kaolin and part kaolin (the ball clay is not needed). And those raw colorants: Better to use a black stain. At a minimum it is better to use cobalt oxide than carbonate. The burnt umber could likely be increased to eliminate the need for both the manganese and iron (since it supplies both and has zero LOI).

Links

Media Desktop Insight 5A - Glaze Formula to Batch Calculations
Learn to use a non-unity calculation to convert a formula into a batch recipe using theoretical and real-world materials. Retotal, round-off and make a side-by-side report.
Media Desktop Insight 2 - Creating a Matte Glaze
Learn to convert a glossy glaze into a matte by comparing its chemistry with a target matte formula. Alter the chemistry in such a way that the thermal expansion does not rise and it maintains good physical application and suspension properties.
Media Desktop Insight 3 - Dealing With Crazing
Learn what crazing is, how it is related to glaze chemistry, how INSIGHT calculates thermal expansion and how to substitute high expansion oxides (e.g. Na2O, K2O) with lower expansion ones (e.g. MgO, Li2O, B2O3).
Media Desktop Insight 4 - Add a Native Material to MDT, Build a Glaze
Learn to add a native volcanic ash to the INSIGHT materials database (MDT) and then create a glaze from it maximizing its percentage. Learn to impose an LOI on a material and why this method is better than line blending.
Media Desktop Insight: Maintain an MDT as a CSV File in Excel
Configure desktop Insight to read a CSV material file at each startup. Manage that file completely outside of Insight.
Media Desktop Insight 1C - Substitute Wollastonite for Whiting in Glazes
Compare calcium carbonate (whiting) with other sources of CaO (dolomite, wollastonite, frit), learn to understand the chemistry differences between materials and then substitute wollastonite for whiting in a specific recipe.
Media Desktop Insight 1A - Compare Theoretical and Real-World Feldspars
While comparing a real-world and theoretical feldspar learn to enter, edit, save, normalize recipes and the materials dialog. Glaze chemistry concepts.
Media Desktop Insight 1B - Turn a Feldspar Into a Glaze
Learn to compare a target formula with the chemistry of a feldspar. See why it does not make a good glaze by itself and what materials need to be added to make it into a balanced glaze.
Media Desktop Insight - Difficult Formula to Batch Calcuations
Learn to do difficult formula to batch conversions. Learn mole%, finding frits by chemistry, Na2O sourcing, oxide oversupply, recipe line added status, overriding in the Supply dialog, when to compromise an exact match.
Media How I Fixed a Settling Glaze Slurry Using Desktop Insight
Learn to reformulate a glaze that is settling in the bucket. Al2O3 and KNaO are sourced by the feldspar, we will source them from kaolin and frits instead.
Media How to Add Materials to the Desktop Insight MDT
There are four ways to do it. Copy and paste XML, type in the formula, enter an analysis as a recipe, handle the MDT as a CSV file in Excel.
Media Subsitute Gerstley Borate in Floating Blue Using Desktop Insight
Use Desktop Insight to explore ways of calculating substitutes for Gerstley Borate in the popular Floating Blue cone 6 glaze recipe while maintaining or improving the other raw and fired properties of the glaze.
Media Digitalfire Desktop INSIGHT Overview Part 2
Part two of a complete tour. It includes using targets, setting calculation types, entering recipe notes and details, SQLite and a review the menus.
Media Convert a Cone 10 Glaze to Cone 6 Using Desktop Insight
Learn the chemistry differences between cone 10 and 6 glazes and how to make a glaze melt at a lower temperature without introducing other problems like crazing.
Media Substituting Nepheline Syenite for Soda Feldspar
Learn to substitute Nepheline Syenite for Soda Feldspar (and vice versa) using the KNaO concept in Insight. You will see the benefit of in-recipe substitution calculation rather than making general substitution rules.
Media Digitalfire Desktop INSIGHT Overview Part 1
Part one of a complete tour. The anatomy of the recipe window, how to open, edit and save recipes; the materials, oxides and supply oxide dialogs, the MDT.
Media Desktop Insight MDT: Adding a Material
Shows four different ways to add materials to the desktop Insight materials database (MDT)
Glossary Insight-Live
A database website where potters and ceramic technician account holders enter their recipes, materials, pictures, test procedures, firing schedules, etc.
Glossary Tony Hansen
Tony Hansen is the author of Digitalfire Insight, Digitalfire Reference Library and Insight-Live.com, he is a long-time potter, ceramic lab-technician and body and glaze developer.
Glossary MDT
An acronym for Materials Definition Table. The XML materials database of Digitalfire Insight glaze chemistry software.
Glossary Digitalfire Foresight
Database software for DOS made by Digitalfire from 1988 until 2005 and was used to by ceramic technicians to catalog recipes, materials, test results and pictures.
URLs www.digitalfire.com
Digitalfire website
URLs https://digitalfire.com/insight
INSIGHT Glaze Chemstry Software

By Tony Hansen


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