We used a 3D print — instead of a wax — to make a successful bronze casting.
From photos to bronze!
First Karl placed the sculpture by Moises Orozco upside down, and then took many photographs of the simple face in the round.
Then he uploaded those photos to 123D Catch to make a 3D scan.
The “scanned” 3D object was messy, so after he downloaded it, Karl cleaned it up in Wings3D. Then in Meshlab he “decimated” the file (Filters> Remeshing> “Simplification and Reconstruction”> “Quadratic Edge Collaspe Decimation”), to make it smaller. Both those softwares are free. Meshlab also has a 3D viewer for both the iPhone and Adroid.
Then Karl uploaded the improved digital sculpture to Tinkercad.
We downloaded that digital sculpture from Tinkercad, and 3D printed it in PLA on the Ultimaker at Xerocraft.
Naturally the small sculpture would look better in bronze. Thus we pretended that the 3D print was a wax, and continued with the ancient “lost wax” process.
Ernie made a cone out of wax, placed it on a Mason jar lid, and heated the lid up so that the wax would stick to it.
Then he attached the PLA print-out to the wax cone, and added other, smaller green wax sprues.
Ernie painted dish washing soap on the piece.
Then he washed the dish soap off.
He placed a section of pipe over the piece, and sealed the bottom with more wax. Then he mixed the dry investment with water, until it reached the consistency of egg nog, and poured that investment slurry into the pipe.
We let the investment set up and dry for two weeks.
October 3rd we cast the piece at the Sculpture Resource Center.
We placed the pipe into the furnance, so that the wax and PLA would melt and burn out. Note that Ernie put the pipe on top of bricks, so that melted residues would not mess up his furnance.
It took 4 hours to bring the furnace up to 1400 degrees.
We filled the crucible with bronze, added borax to it, and set it on ceramic bricks, preparing to heat it up.
We melted the bronze with a propane torch.
Time to take the pipe out of the furnace.
Gonzalo turned the pipe, so that the sprue hole faced upwards.
We waited until the exposed bronze cooled down to a dull cherry red, before dunking it in water.
This project proves that we can cast small bronze objects directly from 3D prints made on Xerocraft’s Ultimaker. No molds, no waxes are necessary! Moreover, the “lost PLA” process will let us cast in any size the Ultimaker prints; whereas with the traditional “lost wax” process, one would have to make a different mold for each sized casting he wishes to make.
Mary Neubauer, art professor at ASU, apparently casts 3D prints using some kind of “lost plastic” process. The detailed piece below was on display at the Generation XYZ show, which opened in Tempe on October 5th.