Jan 14, 2015 | By Simon

When it comes to creating large-scale 3D objects, ask any artist, designer, architect or engineer what tool helped in aiding their success and you’re likely to hear “models” - or more recently - “3D printing” and "CNC machining".  

Whether a final object is a bridge, a conceptual structure, or even a contemporary sculpture, 3D printing or CNC machining is a critical step in working out design kinks and communicating design intent to stakeholders such as clients, colleagues and city officials.  

A more recent example of how digital fabrications aids in bringing a large-scale object to life was presented on Reddit recently by a son who wanted to share his father’s design process for bringing a bronze buffalo sculpture to life.  

“So my old man is an artist and I thought some of you might be interested in seeing how massive bronze sculptures are made,” said Reddit user ‘Biggieholla’.

The artist, Richard Loffler, is known for his extensive collection of wildlife sculptures ranging from the aforementioned large-scale sizes all the way down to tabletop-sized miniatures.  For the large bronze buffalo sculptures, over five years were needed to bring them to life.  

While Loffler previously used to carve full-scale mockups out of foam by hand, the reduced cost of 3D printing and CNC machining in the past few years has allowed him to switch the process over to digital fabrication methods for bringing his sculptures to life.

Beginning with a smaller model, the design is translated into a larger model that can be divided into sections.  Each section is created with the appropriate division marks made for putting the assembly back together again. Once all of the sections have been assessed as printable, they are printed and then assembled back into the final shape of the finished bronze sculpture.

Afterwards the model is covered with clay similar to automotive clay models for further sculpting.

Once the detailing has been completed, the sections are divided yet again and are prepared for a mold making process. When the molds have been made, they are then transported to a foundry to be individually cast into all of the necessary components for rebuilding the sculpture.  

After the individual pieces have cooled, they are removed from the molds, cleaned, finished, and then welded back together again in the same form that was originally made using the clay.

Finally, the finished welded sculptures are sandblasted to remove minor imperfections and material and then sprayed with patina for a dark finish.  Once this is complete, they are ready for delivery.

As 3D scanning becomes cheaper and resolutions higher, as well as large scale 3D printers becoming more commonplace, it will be only a matter of time before creating large sculptures like this go from years to months or even weeks!

For a more in-depth look at the process, head over to see the full photo set on Imgur.  


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


Maybe you also like:


James Tyler wrote at 1/15/2015 6:42:19 PM:

They're clearly machined. Why is this on this website?

Hans Fouche wrote at 1/15/2015 7:50:38 AM:

Are the models 3d printed?

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive