Traditional Meets Tech with 3D Printing and Bronze Trophy Making
" 3D printing allowed a cost effective solution to what is normally an expensive and more time consuming traditional process using clay, molds, and metal casting. "
King Sculpture Studios
Tim King is a traditional sculptor in Longmont Colorado, USA. While also respectful of traditional lost-wax bronze techniques, Tim has integrated digital design and 3D Printing options into his creative process. He enjoys life-long learning about tools and techniques which enable the translation of his ideas of beauty and emotions into physical world creations. He sees combinations of 3D printing with ancient bronze workflows as an amazing opportunity to expand awareness, affordability, and love of heirloom quality art to a much wider audience. His current focus is upon family and dance themes.
3D model processed to imitate traditional bronze sculptures.
The traditional process that King uses is long and labor intensive. There are many resources such as clay sculpt that get destroyed in the process and will only get used once.
Before including 3D printing, the industry’s traditional methods included:
- Laborious manual processing hours
- Utilizing resources that could not be reused
- Difficult repeatability at various scales
By applying Raise3D printers, the company was able to
- Avoid laborious production steps by beginning with a complete model
- Offer sculptures in multiple sizes due to perfect repeatability and likeness
- Create low cost alternatives with a fully 3D printed final product
- Reduced material costs
- Reduced overall production time
- Create accurate proofs before finalizing
Company: King Sculpture Studios
Industry: Bronze Sculptures
Interviewee: Tim King
Title: Classic Sculptor
Process: The ancient lost-wax bronze process involves labor intensive steps spanning from 4 months to a year. At King Sculpture Studios, this traditional process consists of 15 steps.
- An armature skeleton is made (typically with wire or plumbing). Foam sheets and foam spray is then added to create the rough structure.
- Clay and/or Wax are added to this base to hand-sculpt the piece.
- Mold. Liquid rubber is applied over the original clay sculpture. The molds are usually made in multiple sectional pieces, and the clay sculpture is destroyed during this process.
- The Cured rubber molds are cleaned, and the outer sections are covered with plaster for support
- Layers of wax are then added to the inside of the mold. These are painted or poured to build each layer until it is 3/16" thick. One wax copy is required every time a bronze sculpture is cast.
- The detailed wax replica of the sculpture pieces are removed from the molds. Mold seam lines are removed, and some of the wax pieces are reassembled. Flaws such as air bubbles and bumps are manually removed and resculpted in wax.
- Wax sprues, are added to properly guide the flow of air and molten bronze. Sprues are wax sticks that connect to the model to allow these pathways.
- The wax pieces are repeatedly dipped into a fine sand slurry mixture to build up 12 layers over multiple days. All sides of the wax are coated in order to make a hollow sculpture. The shell also must be created for every individual bronze casting and can only be used one time.
- Pressured steam is used to melt the wax from the hardened shell. The inner walls of the now hollow shell are ready to be filled with bronze.
- Molten bronze is then poured into each shell.
- Using air hammers, plasma cutters, and sand blasting, the ceramic shell is broken and cleaned from the cooled bronze parts.
- Parts that were cast separately are then welded back together.
- Air tools, burs and sanding are used to hide weld lines and to recreate the original sculpture textures.
An oven, chemicals, traditional pigments, torches, airbrushes and hand scrubbing are used to apply color. The patina is protected by lacquer, and the lacquer is protected by hand buffing with paste wax.
Pieces are finished by being attached to a stone or wooden base.
By utilizing 3D printing, Tim King utilizes the features of repeatability and the ability to to print custom parts. With the 3D models, he can still create molds and continue the casting process and can now bypass some of the time consuming sculpting stages.
By scanning a pre-existing sculpture, King can make replicas of his original works in a wide variety of sizes which would have originally required sculpting a new clay model for each size.
Another application King uses involves the aid of 3D sculpting software. King can create his sculpture digitally and directly produce it in a 3D print without the need for clay sculpting.
Lastly, 3D printed pieces can be used directly as a sculpture and can be post processed to resemble many different textures and materials.
Referencing dozens of images of his client's friend, King created the design in ZBrush, and printed small models on his N2 Plus. By utilizing a 3D printer, replicas like these small models are exactly the same every time which gives the artist a chance to confirm the design of the model before printing and painting the final product.