Much of my current work is physically built via various 3D printing technologies. My pieces are first sculpted digitally using industrial design and sculptural CAD software. All creative processes happen at this stage. I use no automated or computer generated computational derivatives. All forms are designed, developed, and executed by me in a similar creative processes I use when sculpting in clay, stone, or wood. The softwares & peripherals I use are simply new tools in my art and require no less skill to learn and use than the traditional variety. Over time these new tools have become very intuitive and organic in not only how I happen to use them, but in how the they’ve been specifically developed for use by artists rather than engineers. I consider the actual 3D printed models as tangible documentation of the work and they exist as the preferred way for me to develop and show my pieces. I may in the future opt for 3D animation, holographic printing, virtual placement in the environment, or some other as-of-yet unknown visualization technology. For me now, nothing beats an actual object existing in space.
Permutation Prime Bronze Process
Development process for one of my bronze tangles from digital render to finished piece
The necessary processes and technologies I use to create my art have only become available in a suitable manifestation within the last 5 years. A perfect storm of new software, advances in 3D printing technology, and material engineering opened the doors for me to bring my visions into reality. I had worked directly with all these components through the last many years testing and and applying it to my art waiting for it to mature into a usable medium. My work became all about rethinking how to build what I wanted because there were no traditional techniques to achieve it. My visions are now able to be realized sculpturally in archival materials including cast bronze and silver, glass, plastics, ceramic, and sintered metals.
For the cast bronze sculptures, the digital data is sliced into thousands of micro layers. Each layer of the design is printed out similar to an ink jet printer but in plastic based materials one layer at a time by jetting a binder into a thinly laid powder wherever the geometry requires, leaving unbound powder all around it for support. Each successive layer is built on top of the last until the model is complete. When the print is complete the remaining unbonded powder is brushed & blown away to liberate the pattern. The pattern is then cleaned & prepped then completely encased in an investment mold (like plaster). The mold with the model still inside is then put into a furnace and the model is incinerated while the mold remains intact. The ash is blown & vacuumed out. The investment mold is then placed under vacuum & molten bronze is poured into it. After the bronze has cooled the mold is broken away to reveal the metal sculpture. The gates & vents are cut off & the piece is sandblasted & polished. Wala, instant gratification (yeah right).
The other technology I commonly use is SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) using polyamide (a nylon based powder) as the medium. These models are also built one layer at a time but use a laser to fuse or sinter the polyamide powder together following the information of the sliced data. After all the layers have been printed, a mass of powder with the fused model inside is what awaits on the machine. The powder is then brushed & blown away to reveal the finished piece. The sculpture is then hand finished. Because of the complexity of the sculptures, any broken models typically cannot be repaired and must be completely rebuilt.
My latest bronze tangle “Permtutation Prime” arrived just a few weeks ago after traveling internationally with Germany’s Voxeljet in support of their technology. Dimensions are approximately 9.5″ x 7.5″ x 8.0″. I’m currently working with them in efforts towards reproducing my tangles on a monumental scale so I can pursue public art commissions. I’ve tried to rethink the current approaches to creating archival sculpture editions as well as explored many emerging technologies in the rapid prototyping industry. Many are close but each has it’s own fatal drawback when applied to my designs. Voxeljet’s technology & vision has helped bridge the gap between my imagination & reality. Many thought not even a psychiatrist could manage that feat. I’ll post pics of the process soon but you can also find them on my Facebook Page.