Mar 2, 2016 | By Alec

3D printing conventions are a perfect place to learn more about the newest startups and the latest technological developments, but they wouldn’t be the same without mouthwatering 3D printing projects either. And that term can certainly be used to describe a massive sculpture that was just revealed at RapidPro 2016 in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. The size of a phone box and designed by digital sculptor Rinus Roelofs, it’s a gorgeous creation made with 3D printed metal casting mold by 3Dealise.

Fans of 3D printed art might know Rinus Roelofs, who is a Dutch digital sculptor with a tremendous fascinating for mathematics. As a result, his works are usually inspired by complex mathematical structures. To deal with that complexity, he often turns to CAD design and 3D printing to realize his ideas. “Since I use the computer as my main sketchbook these ideas come to reality first as a picture on the screen. From there I can decide what the next step ­towards physical realization has to be. A rendered picture, an animation or a 3D physical model made by the use of CNC-milling, laser cutting or rapid prototyping. Many techniques can be used nowadays, as well as many different materials. But it is all based on my fascination about mathematical structures,” he says. Many are large enough for public display in gardens and parks.

For this latest project, he teamed up with British industrial 3D printing and engineering company 3Dealise to realize a concept that has been in the back of his mind for years. The fantastic results were just unveiled at RapidPro in Veldhoven, in front of a crowd of visitors. As it was the first time the artist actually saw the results himself, it was quite a memorable moment. But the sculpture itself is memorable too, as it’s 2.3 meters tall and made from about 600 kg of iron.

To realize that monstrous structure, 3Dealise first made 400 mm tall prototypes of two designs, to see what was possible. Eventually, they settled on the cylindrical knot, which was described by Mr Roelofs as ‘a tube that is knotted in an unconventional way’. Using a gigantic 3D printer (with a build volume of 1800 x 1000 x 700 mm), they first made a metal casting mold. These mold prints can be easily stacked to make larger shapes, and they said that the freedom offered by 3D printing was key in realizing that stage. With the mold done, they resorted to a traditional metal casting process – something that ensures high quality results. The knot can even be given a material certificate such as Lloyds 3.1.

Fortunately, Roelofs was very happy with the results. “I have had the idea for this sculpture for a long time, and only in the late ‘90s the software was advanced enough to be able to design it. Since then, I have tried to realize the sculpture, which has been a challenge. First, I made a version with digitally cut layers of wood glued together. 3D printing a small version in plastic became possible a few years back,” he said. “And for the first time now, it has been possible to make a life-size version in one piece, as the sculpture was intended.”

To the people of 3Dealise, it also illustrated exactly what the added value of 3D printing is. “This new technology is important for two reasons” First, it demonstrates that ‘freedom of design’ is available for large items, such as this 2.3-metre-tall work of art. 3D printing is often associated with relatively small parts, but the benefits are equally available for large parts. A universe of new design possibilities is unlocked for artists and designers this way,” commented CEO Roland Stapper. “Second, because this technology is capable of producing large metal items, it shows that structurally strong and vandal proof items can be made with 3D printing. This is essential for outdoor display of works of art.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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