Feb 17, 2016 | By Tess

3D printing technology seems to be expanding its reach yet again, this time into the glamorous world of music and film award shows. During this past Sunday’s 58th Annual Grammy Awards, for instance, 3D printing helped to bring Lady Gaga’s David Bowie homage performance to life, and now the Academy Awards, more commonly known as The Oscars, have announced that they are using 3D printing technologies to revive and recreate the original Oscar statuettes from 1929.

You are undoubtedly familiar with the iconic gold man statuette, or “Oscar” that is given out to the winners of such sought after film categories as “Best Picture,” “Best Leading Actress,” and “Best Director.” Well, you might be surprised to know that its design and materials have changed in subtle ways since the Academy Awards’ first ceremony in 1929. Originally, the statuette, which was designed by sculptor George Stanley and based on a sketch by MGM’s art director at the time Cedric Gibbons, was made from gold-plated solid bronze. After just a few years however, the manufacturing process changed and up until this year the statuettes have for the most part been made from gold plated metal.

Now, in time for the 88th Annual Academy Awards, the ceremony organizers have enlisted Rock Tavern, New York based foundry Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry to create the famed statuettes in a way that returns to their roots, by hand-casting the statue in bronze and plating it with a 24-karat gold finish.

Dick Polich, founder and CEO of Polich Tallix says “With this project, we’ve been entrusted with continuing a great traditions. It’s a privilege to be able to bring our art experience and technical expertise to the Oscar.”

The process of creating the new Oscar statuettes while bringing them back to their original art deco design consisted of first 3D scanning an original 1929 Oscar as well as the most current 2015 edition of the award. Polich Tallix was then able to combine the two designs with 3D modeling and, while keeping the nature of the most current one, was able to bring the statuette closer to the original Oscar statue, with sharper features and a more art deco aesthetic.

Once the final design was agreed upon, the updated Oscar design was 3D printed in wax to serve as a base to create a mold. Once a wax copy of each of the statuettes was made, each was dipped in ten coats of a ceramic shell slurry. From there the ceramic shell was fired in an oven at 1600° F, melting the wax away, bronze at an even hotter temperature of 1860° F was poured into the ceramic shell. After cooling overnight, the ceramic shell was broken and removed from the bronze statuette, which was then sanded, polished, and electroplated with 24-karat gold by Brooklyn based electroplating company Epner Technology.

“With the help of some 21st century technology, we’re able to honor the Oscar’s proud beginnings,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “The new statuette exemplifies impeccable craftsmanship and the enduring nature of art.”

The finished statuette, with a black base and engraved mirror-polished bronze plate stating the name of the award category and winner, weighs about 8.5 pounds and stands at 13.5 inches tall. To create 50 of them, one for each of the recipients of an Academy Award of Merit, took Polich Tallix about three months.

“Polich Tallix has made many of such awards honoring all manners of accomplishment but never before an object of such renowned and instant recognition,” said Polich.

While you may have to wait until the much anticipated 88th Academy Awards, which are taking place Sunday, February 28th, to find out who brings home the coveted Oscar statuettes, you will at least have some special insight into how this year’s, and the statuettes for years to come, are made and how 3D printing helped in the process.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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