Over the last year, I have been experimenting with combining 3D capture, 3D design, and 3D printing with traditional lost wax bronze casting techniques. I’d like to use these technologies to develop a reliable method for producing large-scale traditional, artisanal bronzes faster and less expensively than has ever been possible in bronze’s 5,000 year history.
The first metalworkers likely were potters who discovered pieces of ores refined into flecks of precious metals embedded in their fired clays. It was the first alchemy, refining and changing substances from one to another, creating bronze alloys, silver, and gold from raw earth. Metalworking eventually became entwined with chthonic cults. Chthonic: having to do with the subterranean, fertility, and deities of the underworld — Hephaestus, Hades, Persephone, and Demeter — and the interface between the living and the dead. It’s a strange word and concept that evokes both abundance and the grave, so it seems fitting that my own experiments with new, Promethean technologies that allow light to be refined into bronze are being influenced and constrained by modern rituals and mysticism surrounding death and the afterlife.
In my 3D capture/print-mediated casting process, there is no original to be transported, handled, disassembled, or stored. There is no mold. There is no wax casting. Instead, the design goes from photography, to digital wireframe, to 3D printed PLA (plastic), then undergoes special preparation before investment and a slightly modified burn-out. Molten bronze or stainless steel is then cast in the normal fashion. Based on my tests so far, I believe I can go from 3D capture, to onscreen design, to a finished, patinated bronze the size of a bust in about seven days, maybe less. A torso in ten. (I’d like to find a client to commission such a piece so I can give it a try.) …
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