From 3D scan to traditional foundry cast bronze
Clients ask us to 3D scan and reproduce a wide variety of interesting and beautiful objects. However, every once in a while we are asked to reproduce a piece that really stands out. The following case study provides a quick overview on such a piece from a private client, who has kindly granted us permission to show some imagery. This particular client loved their original sculpture so much, that they wanted another copy produced for a second home.
Our brief was to produce a 1:1 scale replica, to be traditionally cast in the finest bronze by a UK leading bronze foundry. However, what made this project particularly challenging was the fragility of the original sculpture, which was hand crafted in plaster of Paris by the Artist in the late 1920’s. We therefore needed to take extreme care whilst performing the 3D scan, to ensure the integrity of this very fragile object. Of course, being a none-contact technology, high resolution 3D digital scanning provides an ideal solution for this type of application.
Once the original bust had been very carefully 3D scanned, we then imported the RAW 3D scan data into specialist 3D sculpting software. This software enables us to clean up the RAW 3D scan data, in order to make everything perfect. This digital sculpting process is carried out by one of our senior 3D digital sculptors. Think of this as on-screen 3D digital sculpting by hand, using many reference photographs of the original item, and taking many hours to complete.
Once the digital mastering process is completed, the 3D digital master file is 3D printed at 1:1 scale using a high-end SLA 3D laser printing system. The completed 3D print then needs to go through our in-house hand-finishing process, in order to carefully remove any 3D print layering and add back any super fine detailing by a hand sculpting process. This particular stage of the process takes many hours, where we carefully work the 3D print surface by hand, millimetre-by-millimetre, using reference photography of the original piece as our guide. This is a particularly tricky process as the 3D print wall thickness is only 3mm thick. Once the hand finishing is complete, the model is surface sealed ready for the foundry casting process.
The next stage is what we refer to as the ‘New to old technology cutover stage’, where we move back to traditional foundry casting techniques. The bronze process consists of taking a silicone mould of our hand-finished 3D print master, so that an exact ‘Lost Wax’ copy can be produced. The lost wax master is then checked by us again before it is used to create the final ceramic casting mould. The wax positive is then melted out of the ceramic mould, which is then ready for the final bronze pour stage.
Once the piece has been cast, it then goes through a metal: joining, polishing, finishing (chasing) stage. The final stage of the foundry process is applying the patina. The ‘Patina Artist’ skilfully applies the patina and uses a high temperature blowtorch to apply the particular finish required by the client (there are hundreds of potentially finishes). Finally, the bronze receives a finishing wax and is then buffed with a soft cloth.
The whole foundry process typically takes 8-16 weeks from start to finish, so is not a fast process. However, the finished result looks amazing!
Finally, we would like to say a special thank you to our client on this project, for allowing us to show this fabulous art piece reproduction as it has progressed through the different stages. We hope it will provide the owners many years of enjoyment in their new home.
To find out more call (01296) 713848