Creating Custom Architectural Features with māk studio

The māk studio building is a rather nondescript structure in an industrial area just east of downtown Houston. It may not look like much from the outside, but the innards are a different story. This, in a way, is what they have the power to do for their clients, transforming a space that otherwise might pass by unnoticed into one that demands attention.

māk studio’s tagline is simple and to the point: “Make design possible.” They design, build, and manufacture beautiful spaces, functional objects, furniture, and surfaces tailored to commercial brands.

The founders, Liz Cordill and José Aguilar, met while practicing architecture in 2013, and have spent nearly three decades between the two of them as practicing architects. They began hitting roadblocks, however, when it came to actually fabricating some of their more complex ideas.

“There was this disconnect between the design industry and the construction industry where the design industry was developing these really cool concepts and the construction industry was not quite keeping up,” explains Aguilar. “We found an opportunity there to really focus on that niche and just offer that as a design and fabrication service.”

māk was their answer to this hurdle.

“We started this business – José and I – because as practicing architects we were finding that some of the things that we were designing, the technology wasn’t there to fabricate it,” says Cordill.

Cordill and Aguilar started with one machine and grew into the 16,000 square foot facility they occupy today. A massive fin wall separates their production floor from the front portion of the office and showroom where the design and prototyping happens. They can take a concept directly from CAD file to physical form using the array of tools at their disposal – from CNC routers to thermoformers – without leaving the building.

Gigabot enters the building

māk studio is a team of architects, industrial designers, interior designers, carpenters, and fabricators; conceiving and creating custom concepts is their specialty. Sometimes, the toughest part of the process can actually be the sale.

The architecture industry used to rely on line drawings to communicate building concepts – a format that Cordill said could be exceptionally difficult to wrap one’s head around. The industry was quick to jump on the 3D train, taking their work into the realm of CAD. But for as photorealistic as these architectural renderings can be, these too are subject to interpretation, says Cordill.

This was something the architecture industry had remedied with hand-built models. “We used to actually build physical models, with cardboard and chipboard and things like that,” recounts Cordill. And while māk wanted a medium that would allow their clients to accurately understand how a particular feature would look and feel in their space, the time sink of laboring over a cardboard model for hours or days didn’t make sense.

The same issues apply to the custom furniture that māk creates today. In order to solve this issue, they turned their sights to 3D printing and ended up getting a Gigabot.

“Having the 3D printer is much more valuable because it’s a faster tool,” says Cordill. “We can set it to work and we don’t have a person sitting there cutting cardboard – and themselves – with an Exacto.”

A custom wall for the re:3D factory

“The Gigabot is really core to how we do things here,” says Aguilar. “From our sales efforts, to our marketing efforts, to actually solving problems for our clients.”

One of Mak’s recent customers was none other than the re:3D Houston factory.

“Designing these walls is a lot of fun.” Polli Bush is Mak’s Project Manager. She walked the re:3D team through the māk design portal user interface, aiding us in the design of several iterations of a logo fin wall.

Once we created three versions, we were able to export STL files of each option and print them in-house on Gigabot. The final decision was put up to a company-wide vote, and with the winner chosen, māk got to fabricating.

The install took no more than an hour: the māk team put together the mounting system of the wall and showed our group how to slide the wooden fins into place. The rippling design took shape before our eyes as each unique slat was added.

Bush explains how the design process has evolved from the pre-3D printer days at Mak, highlighting their ability to rapidly prototype and create accurate scale models of designs. “The technology of 3D printing makes it a lot easier for people to believe in what they’re going to get,” says Bush. “It’s proof of concept in our industry.”

Using 3D printing to solve complex problems

“At the end of the day, we’re problem-solvers for our clients,” says Aguilar.

māk does everything in their power to make their clients visions into reality, using the arsenal of cutting-edge production tools at their disposal. Gigabot fits into this lineup of problem-solving machinery, but Aguilar explains that it can also serve as a check for them.

“We’ve got clients that come up with some really cool stuff, and sometimes it’s very complicated to build,” he says. “If we can’t 3D print something, most likely it’s gonna be really, really hard to actually make it in bigger components. So it actually keeps us in check. If we can 3D print it, that means that we have the logic to actually build it.”

On the other hand, he remarks, if they have major issues with 3D printing scale models, it can serve as an initial sign that perhaps the design needs to be reworked.

Gigabot can also bridge the gap where other production tools may falter. Aguilar tells the story of a custom light fixture they’re working on with a client, where 3D printing is serving a role in producing the final piece. “We’re studying the idea of doing this faceted light that would be really hard to do without printing,” he says. “It would be very, very time-consuming and it would make the project unattainable.”

Camilo Reinales is a Designer and Fabrication Assistant at māk working on the light project. “This custom light opened the idea of ‘maybe we don’t need to use the traditional fabrication methods, maybe we could start exploring additive manufacturing alternatives.’”

They’re experimenting with printing the pyramidal structure of the fixture in PLA and casting in metal. “For the geometry that it has, it would have taken a lot of time and skill for a craftsman to create,” explains Reinales. “But with 3D printing, the cool thing about it is that if you can model and print it, like 75% of the job is done.”

They printed a functional scale model at 75% infill – a 37 hour print – so they could actually hang items from the structure as they go through testing. The final light will be twelve by fight feet.

Bigger, faster

Aguilar muses about his journey from small, desktop printing in architecture school to where they are now at māk . “I always want to print a little bigger, a little faster. This was a really great aspect of Gigabot.”

The technology is now so enmeshed in their process Aguilar can hardly picture a time before 3D printing. “[Gigabot] is kind of core to our DNA how we do things here,” he reiterates. “It’s just part of the process. Every project is somewhat touched by [it] right now.”

Cordill reflects on how 3D printing has enabled them to offer products and services to a wider swath of clients. “You can see some of these sort of fancy designs and people think, ‘Oh, that’s really, really expensive. I can never have that in my space,’” she muses. “But our goal is to really make it more accessible to everyone, so that you’ve got access to creating something unique that’s your own, using these design tools.”

It’s clear that at the core of māk is a desire to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in their field – after all, that is how the company came to be in the first place. They accomplish this with a pioneering mentality and a pursuit of new tools and technologies that enable the creation of ideas that would otherwise remain unmakeable.

On the relatively recent addition of 3D printing to their production floor lineup, Aguilar muses, “It really has helped us keep up with where the industry is going, where the technology is going, and how do we invest in this technology in the future?”

Learn more about māk studio: https://www.makstudio.us/

Trash to Treasure: from Reverse Pitch to ReStore

The dream has been the same, since the beginning of re:3D, to create a 3D printer that could print from trash. There was a problem though, first we had to create a printer (the Gigabot), and then we had to figure out a way to print directly from plastic waste (Gigabot X).

The Gigabot filament fed 3D Printer

So the first part of the dream was to create a large-scale, industrial 3D printer that was open-source and affordable, which is just what we did. The creation and sales of Gigabot has allowed re:3D to become a viable, profitable company. However, as a boot-strapped startup, finding more money, especially for R&D hardware projects was always difficult. But we never stopped believing that we could do it.

Two years ago we had the perfect opportunity to finally fund the creation of our Gigabot X 3D printer. The first was the WeWork Creator Awards, which awarded us the ability to expand our team, our facilities, and our R&D budget. The second was a Phase I SBIR (small business innovation research) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF grant was specifically for the creation of a 3D printer that could print from plastic waste. Subsequently we have received a Phase II award for this project to continue to develop an entire ecosystem to grind, dry, and feed plastic waste into the Gigabot X (GBX) printer that was developed as part of the Phase I grant. The dream was alive! The GBX was real!

The Gigabot X, pellet printer

Reverse Pitch:

Each year, the City of Austin, and specifically the Austin Resource Recovery department hosts an event called Reverse Pitch. Reverse Pitch is unique because it looks for companies within the Austin community who are creating waste that could be put to use in other areas or other businesses. The event starts with the Reverse Pitch, where the companies who are creating waste, pitch their product (trash) to businesses, entrepreneurs, or anyone interested. They talk about the quantities, the types of waste being produced, and any other pertinent information that might be useful.

Next, those who are interested in using one or more of the pitched waste-streams, put together a presentation and create a business model/use case around either creating or augmenting their business using the waste.

This past year one of the companies, HID Global, was pitching plastic polycarbonate (PC) sheets. They were the result of creating ID cards in their factory, and they were producing it in staggering amounts. The challenge was to figure out what we could do with it. I had the opportunity to go up to North Austin and tour the HID Global facility (which is amazing!) and see the process, meet the people, and get to know the waste-stream and company a little bit better. It is really amazing that this billion dollar company would be so warm and welcoming.

PC is a very common 3D printing feedstock. Our filament printing Gigabot prints with PC on a regular basis, in fact we use PC printed parts in all of our Gigabot printers. So I knew that it would be possible to print with this waste stream. Next, the entire process for HID to create their ID cards is done in a ‘clean-room’ environment, so we knew that the waste was extremely clean – another advantage because dirt can cause clogs and other issues in the printing process.

I made the pitch for a line of furniture, home goods, and art pieces to be printed on GBX directly from the HID PC waste. It was an idea that I called, Design: by re:3D. And, we WON! It was extremely exciting to win the pitch competition, and we received $10,000 to jump-start the idea (You can see the video here).

But then the joy turned into nervousness – we needed to divert 2,000 lbs of HID PC from the landfill, and quickly! What were we going to do with all of this stuff?

Serendipitously enough, one of the judges for the Reverse Pitch just so happened to work at the Austin Habitat for Humanity ReStore. We struck up a conversation after the competition, and set up a meeting with their team to discuss the idea of turning trash into treasure, and then selling it at the ReStore.

Talk about a dream scenario!

It has been a lot of work to get to this point, almost a year later! The ReStore allowed us to install a small industrial grinder in their back room, and allowed us to send interns over to spend HOURS grinding away at the 2,000lbs of PC that we had picked-up from HID.

We are so excited to announce that the first pieces of furniture are being displayed and put up for silent auction at the ReStore today! These pieces have been printed from waste plastic, this first batch is from plastic water bottles specifically. As we progress with our technology, and hone in our printer settings we are confident that we will be able to print objects from the diverted PC. We have successfully printed small vases and other objects, and we are going to be moving up to furniture shortly.

We are really looking forward to growing our relationship with the Habitat ReStore. And we are so thankful for the continued support from the City of Austin, the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), and all of the many many more people who have believed in our story and helped us along the way. We look forward to continuing this work, diverting more trash from the landfill, and growing our business and team here in Texas.

On designing this collection:

By Mike Battaglia

When looking around reStore, I was looking for something that would usually be in stock and was an easy shape to design around. For my first piece I settled to design around 2x2s after seeing a bench outside made entirely of them.

The first design relied on glue to keep it together and I ultimately decided that this wasn’t sustainable. To complete the loop, I wanted the chair to be able to be disassembled, ground up, and turned into new feedstock for GBX. The second design had screw holes so that the 2x2s could be fastened and removed/disassembled. I definitely prefer this design but have already moved on to other ideas that will be even easier to assemble.

Lead Designer: Mike B. Assembling Furniture

Designing for GBX requires adding a little bit more tolerance than you would for a regular print. The layers are larger and slightly less consistent. I learned the hard way when realizing that the tolerance I had designed in was not enough, and had to plane down each piece of wood to fit.

Currently I am experimenting with 3D printed molds for pouring reclaimed cement+polycarbonate scrap into to create side tables.

Check out a quick video about the furniture:

What do you think we should make next? Email: info@re3d.org and let us know!

3D Printed Play Structures and Architectural Models with Rice University

“It is certainly a beautiful campus in which to construct a temporary play structure. It also meant that I would walk by the installation every day on my way to and from work, allowing me to observe the structure over time and learn more about the novel construction system.”

David Costanza, now teaching at Cornell AAP’s Department of Architecture, was a Technology Fellow at Rice University’s School of Architecture at the time of this visit, where he taught for four years.

In Model Object, a Rice seminar that Costanza co-taught with Assistant Professor Andrew Colopy, students explored issues of digital modeling and fabrication through focuses on additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, and cutting.

Costanza came from MIT where he got his M.Arch and S.MarchS, a postgraduate research degree. He was involved in a number of design and fabrication courses there, including as a teaching assistant for the class “How to Make Almost Anything,” where they were heavily invested in 3D printing. At Rice, one of his undertakings as a technology fellow was to restructure the building technology sequence in the School of Architecture, where he worked to incorporate more contemporary and digital tools for design, representation, and manufacturing.

Thanks to his heavy involvement with 3D printing during his time at MIT, Costanza brought a strong additive manufacturing background with him to Rice. This skillset helped him spearhead the bulking up of Rice’s 3D printer arsenal, where he used each machine as a stepping stone to the next level.

Sizing Up Rice's Printer Arsenal

When Costanza arrived at Rice, the department had one desktop SLA printer. In his first semester teaching Model Object, he and Colopy wrote a grant and were able to buy a series of Ultimakers, or desktop FFF printers. “We then used the work that was produced in that course to write a larger grant, and that allowed us to purchase the Gigabot,” he explains, “to allow the work that we were doing and the research at the smaller scale to scale up with the larger 3D printer.”

Their shift in focus from SLA to FFF was deliberate, Costanza explains.

They considered both SLS and SLA machines, and although the print resolution is high and allows for fine detail, the technology didn’t give them what they were ultimately looking for. “We’re trying to project forward as to how those geometries might be constructed in the real world,” Costanza muses. “The same translation that we have with an architectural scale model also happens at a full-scale on the construction site. So we’re trying to project how building that model might also scale up.”

SLS and SLA technology “works really well at a small-scale,” he explains, “but they don’t really allow for the scaling up of something that might be architectural.” If they were going to be testing complex geometries that would ultimately be building-sized, they wanted to be sure they were doing so using a method that was actually representative of real world construction.

“Because we’re very interested in the full scale here in the Architecture Department, we can really treat [an extruded] model as something that could scale up,” Costanza explains. “The thing that we’re printing on the Ultimaker can scale up to the Gigabot, and the thing on the Gigabot can scale up to a Kuka arm with [an] extruder at the end of a gantry crane.”

In the real world, building construction typically happens through an additive process: concrete is poured, steel is erected, bricks are laid, et cetera. A 3D print created using fused filament fabrication would therefore be a more realistic representation of how that structure would ultimately come to be. “Where the other models – SLS, SLA – would produce objects that were purely representational,” Costanza continues, “by using an [FFF] printer, we could essentially replicate – more or less, at a different scale – something that could happen at an architectural scale.”

The School of Architecture is now home to a Gigabot – as of several years ago – which lives in the department’s dedicated 3D printing room and spends most of its time producing models of buildings.

Now that architects essentially operate in a digital world – conceptualizing and designing buildings on a computer – “that translation from the digital models that we’re producing into a physical object or scale model can be quite complex for some of the geometries,” Costanza explains. “When the Gigabot is used to produce architectural representational scale models, it’s typically to produce geometry that would be otherwise quite difficult to replicate physically, but is quite simple to produce digitally.”

Beyond Architectural Models

Rice’s Gigabot also occasionally gets to spend some time on other real-world endeavors.

One such project was a chair that Costanza produced in collaboration with his Model Object co-teacher, Colopy. Thermoformed from a single piece of rice husk biocomposite, the final piece sports asymmetrical curves that are just as much function as they are form. The back of the chair flexes slightly to the body’s natural contours, the oblique face of the seat is perfectly angled for a natural tuck of one’s feet as it slopes to the floor, and the shape of the chair allows it to nest for packing purposes.

The design of the chair feels natural and obvious – as good design should – but much testing went into settling on its final form.

“As we were manipulating the geometry of the chair, the Gigabot allowed us to produce quick, iterative prototypes of how the chair might look that we could evaluate for its aesthetic qualities, but also even some of its performative qualities,” Costanza recounts.

They could use 3D prints not only to take their vision into the physical realm and allow them to turn the design over in their hands, but also to test its functionality. “To see how the plastic flexes for the back of the chair, let’s say, was something that we could test even out of PLA,” Costanza explains.

Scaled-down iterations of the chair – from palm-sized miniatures to versions big enough for a kid – still adorn one of the workshops in the architecture building. “We built a number of small scale mock-ups, all the way up to a half-scale version of the chair on the Gigabot,” recounts Costanza. “Between each iteration we were able to manipulate the double curvature of the chair, which is what produced the stiffness for the back, or the double curvature of the seat, which allowed for various degrees of comfort.”

End Use 3D Prints in a Real World Structure

Another project of Costanza’s – originally on exhibit at Lawndale Art Center in Houston – now resides on the Rice campus.

“The design of the object is a kind of communal play structure, something that would bring disparate communities together to play, where one interaction by an individual would have repercussions for someone else on the play structure,” explains Costanza. “So it’s sort of a collective bench, or possibly a see-saw made up of a series of hammocks.”

Part furniture piece, part play structure, the design sits roughly 15 feet in diameter, made up of a skeleton of fiberglass pultrusions connected with nodes and wrapped with a webbing of climbing rope. Its asymmetrical upper and lower surfaces prompt loungers to either lay down or sit upright. One design feature in particular lends the structure its name.

“Depending on the number of people that are occupying the structure, it will tip to one side or to the other,” Costanza explains. “So the name of the object is TipTap…It’s really meant to bring people together through coordinated play.”

In this particular piece of work, Gigabot played more than just a prototyping role. TipTap’s structure is made up of linear, off-the-shelf fiberglass pultrusions which were simply cut to length, joined together by a series of “highly intricate, complex nodes.” Enter Gigabot.

“There are 32 nodes. Each node is unique, and they were all printed on the Gigabot,” says Costanza. The nodes operate as a mold for a fiberglass shell structure: first printed, then wrapped with fiberglass tape and an epoxy resin and vacuum bagged, rendering them structurally sound.

The design of TipTap ultimately hinged on Costanza’s ability to use a large-scale 3D printer for the fabrication of the nodes. “I designed the nodes for the TipTap play structure around the scale of the Gigabot,” he explains, “knowing that they would be 3D printed, knowing how long it would take to print those objects, and the kind of scale that I could produce and the quality of those parts.”

He considered the alternatives – machining molds out of foam and fiberglassing the foam, for example – but noted that the other methods available to him would have been more time-consuming and labor-intensive than his 3D printing method.

“So in the end,” he muses, “we probably would have designed a different object if we did not have the Gigabot.”

Sculpting Interdisciplinary Career Paths at Monmouth University’s Art Department

“You’re always going to have the people who are going to say, ‘Oh, what are you gonna do with a fine arts degree?’”

Lauren Haug is a third-year student at Monmouth University pursuing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design, and she’s all-too familiar with the reactions that come with being a student interested in following a passion for art into higher education.

“But when it comes to doing this interdisciplinary stuff, you get to open up so many more avenues that you never thought you’d be able to go into.”

It was at Monmouth that she fell under the tutelage of Kimberly Callas, an Assistant Professor teaching drawing, sculpture, and 3D design at the university, and that Haug’s career visions underwent a stark trajectory change.

Callas is an academically-trained figurative sculptor and social practice artist. Her craft is a very old tradition – she sculpts in clay and casts her work in bronze or concrete. And yet she’s been on the forefront of adopting new technology and finding ways to use it to better her workflow and incorporate it into her teachings.

Her students are reaping the benefits of this as much as she is – graduating with a set of highly-sought after and directly-applicable experience: from CAD and 3D printing to creativity and adaptability.

Fostering Innovation through Interdisciplinary Projects

Callas’s curriculum has been largely influenced by her early experiences working at a makerspace.

“There was a student there who was in engineering, and then there was another student who was a nursing student, and I was there as an artist working,” she recounts. “To me it was really fascinating to work between the fields, and so I wanted that opportunity for my students.”

The interdisciplinary experience stuck with her and has impacted her teachings to this day. “It’s one of the things I really like about 3D printing and emerging technologies, that we can all work together in the space and maybe through touching shoulders we come up with better ideas or innovative ideas,” she says. “I feel like it really does foster innovation; in the arts, being exposed to the other fields, but also the other fields being exposed to the arts.”

Through cross-department projects with her students, Callas encourages the weaving of an artist’s touch into other fields, and vice-versa.

“With the Gigabot, we do a couple of different projects,” she explains. “[The students] have to go out and seek someone in another field that needs a 3D print, or may not even know they need a 3D print yet.” She’s had students work on projects with scientists, anthropologists, mathematicians, and chemists.

“Last semester, I had a student who was able to 3D model and 3D print a molecule that only exists when we make it on this campus,” she recounts. “That was really neat because the students were able to hold the molecule in their hand and look at it, and this is something they’ve been researching for a long time.”

Both Callas and Haug have a particular way of describing the tactile nature of 3D printing. For them, touch is inextricably linked to their craft, and so it’s no wonder that the transmutation of a concept from idea to digital to physical is so meaningful to them. But they also talk about it in a way that extends beyond the art world.

Haug worked on a project with a Monmouth professor to print out DNA in its building-block segments. “Her students will be able to break apart the actual double helix strand and…inspect the pieces that build them and see how they work together, how they link up, and how the actual double helix itself is formed, instead of just being able to look at the page in the textbook,” she explains. From a student’s perspective, Haug describes how this could function as a powerful teaching tool. “I know for myself, personally, when I’m able to feel things and actually look at things from all angles, that it helps me remember.”

Another student of Callas’s took on a project in the anthropology department, 3D printing a mandible from a scan. “It was a newly-discovered mandible that showed that there was this new evolutionary line in humanoids,” she explains. The discovery was so new that it was still just being researched in a lab, but Callas’s student was able to get ahold of a 3D scan that the laboratory had taken. “We were able to 3D print it for our students to look at the mandible and be able to really examine and understand – ‘Why is this significant? What’s important about this?’ – by physically looking at it, which is what they would be doing in the field.”

It’s this sort of mentality that permeates Callas’ teachings: how does this school project translate into future real-world work? How does this degree cross over, post-graduation, into a career? It’s a deliberate, thoughtful, applicable style of teaching that one would hope every student gets the opportunity to experience.

Callas took her students on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Media Lab, where students got a firsthand glimpse of what a post-graduation career path might look like. “The students just saw all kinds of possibilities in 3D printing and digital scanning,” she says.

Haug also describes the profound impact this trip had on her. “We got a little backstage tour of [The Met’s] digital imaging labs,” she recounts. “That’s [now] kind of a loose goal for myself to do work with an anthropological aspect to it, ’cause I think that’s really interesting. I really like working with both past and present, and…bringing them together in a way that everyone can be interested in.”

Adaptation in the Art World

Callas explains that what she’s doing in her classes is more than just teaching her students a software and a machine. Yes, her students come away with CAD and 3D printing experience, but what she’s really trying to impress upon them is a can-do spirit of versatility and flexibility.

“I think one of the things that’s really exciting about the students using the printer…is that sort of entrepreneurial mindset,” she says. “That adaptability is gonna be really important in their work life and going forward. And so 3D printing’s been really important for my students to… understand that this changes all the time and you have to change with it. You have to figure things out yourself, you have to Google it and use YouTube, and that self-direction is really important and I see a lot of growth in them through doing that.”

Callas is speaking from experience.

She got her MFA from the New York Academy of Art and her BFA from the Stamps School of Art at the University of Michigan. She’s been working as an artist in an age-old craft for decades, and yet has nimbly evolved as her field has undergone some major, rapid changes in the last several years.

“It’s been interesting to be able to watch something be introduced to my field of sculpture at this stage that changes it radically,” she says. “I liken 3D printing to when Photoshop was introduced to photography and Illustrator to design work, when everything went onto the computer. Well sculpture hadn’t been on the computer. And so what it’s done to sculpture has been unbelievably fast, so we’re all adapting quickly.”

Where Callas had to evolve efficiently and pick up a new tool midway into her career, she works to give her students a leg up by sending them out into the world well-versed in these new digital tools.

“I try to keep it integrated in every class,” Callas says, of 3D printing. “My big focus is being able to work seamlessly between the handmade and the digital. And I think that that is absolutely necessary for going forward in the world today.”

The old traditions and handmade touches will likely always remain in their own ways, but the injection of digital into the creation process is undeniably beneficial and here to stay. The message under Callas’s teachings seem to be: better to embrace this and prepare for it than to fight it. “I want my students to realize that the digital is going to be a big part of what they do in the studio, even though they still have the dirt and the dust and the plaster dust under their fingernails.”

3D Printing in the Artist’s Workflow

This fusion of digital and handmade permeates not only Callas’s teachings but also her personal work, where she uses the two mediums to complement one another.

“I work back and forth between the digital and the handmade the whole time,” she says. “Uploading drawings, and then uploading scans, printing things, sculpting from prints, sculpting from the models, scanning what I’ve sculpted in clay, going back into the computer, printing that…so it’s a real back-and-forth process.”

Callas has a long history of working in sustainability, something that has heavily shaped the work she does today.

“I realized when I was working in sustainability that people were having a hard time responding to just environmental data,” she explains. “But if it were a stream or something that they fished in as a child, then they would really protect that space. And so I wanted to find those more emotional connections in people, like where are our emotional and more intimate connections to nature and where do those exist?”

She began experimenting with incorporating local flora into her work, forming a body of work around what she called the “Ecological Self.”

This ultimately evolved into her Eco-Portraits, a mask series in which she does a portrait of an individual around a symbol or pattern from nature that’s significant to that person. “I’m looking for that connection, where is that intimate link between them and nature,” she explains. “And then I take a pattern from that…and I combine it with a portrait.’

Where Callas used to work solely in the handmade realm, she’s found immense advantages with bringing new technology into her work.

“Before, I would sculpt from a model to get the individual portrait, and then I would sculpt and dig into the clay the different patterns,” she explains. “The way that 3D printing has helped it is now I can take a scan of my model and I can 3D print their head, and then I sculpt from the head. I still work in the clay, but I’ll be working from a 3D print of the model so they don’t have to sit there that long.”

“The other thing that’s been a huge advantage,” she continues, “is often when I want to get an intricate pattern into the clay and then I make the mold and cast it, some of that pattern gets disturbed and broken [and] needs to be repaired. And so with a 3D print, I’m able to digitally scan in my sculpture, get an intricate pattern without much repair work, and I can just 3D print it rather than cast it.”

There are several different aspects to 3D printing that have proven to be of immense help to Callas in her process of creation. “One is that you can change things really quickly, and so if you’re working digitally and you need to shrink something down or enlarge it or change any part of it, it’s much faster than working in clay,” she explains. “And also then you can get copies really quick. If you have to make a mold of a sculpture, it takes you quite a long time, but I can scan a sculpture in a couple of minutes, and then I can 3D print it very quickly compared to what it takes to cast from a mold. So those are some really big advantages.”

What Photoshop is to photography and Illustrator to design, 3D printing is to the physical, Callas explains. And what more valuable function is there in these programs than the undo button? This is a game-changer to which her field never previously had access.

“Oh, there’s no comparison…it’s so much quicker,” she says. “If I make a mistake or if I just don’t like something, I just undo it. But if I don’t like something in clay, I have to rebuild it, and it takes a long time.”

Callas’s current big project is 3D printing a life-size human sculpture with patterns from nature etched into the form – “almost tattooed into the skin” – representing how place shapes us and can very literally become a part of who we are through what we eat and breathe.

She completed an artist residency at an eco-art residency called Joya in Spain last spring – paid for in part by an Urban Coast Institute Faculty Enrichment Grant – collecting symbols and patterns from the wildlife there, which she will add to the 3D printed figure. She’s currently doing test prints for the body, which she estimates will take somewhere between 10-12 prints and 1,300 hours of print time.

While she still loves working in good old-fashioned clay, Callas can’t deny the time and labor savings that comes with adding a 3D printer to her workflow. “I still love working with clay, there’s something to it,” she says. “But I think some of the advantages which I’m looking forward to [include] emailing my file to the foundry rather than shipping huge molds or carrying them…” She laughs, and says of the artist community, “I think we’re going to end up liking that.”

Callas was recently chosen to be the new Artist-in-Residence for the Urban Coast Institute. During this two year appointment, she will be making 3D printed life size figures that combine ocean science with symbols from the ocean.

Inspiring New Career Paths

There’s no denying the impact that Callas’s teachings have upon her students. The interdisciplinary elements in her classes are opening her students’ eyes to interests and career paths that were previously unconsidered.

“I definitely want to pursue something with a sort of museum aspect to it,” says Haug. “I would really like to work with cataloguing and organizing.” She explains that she’s excited about 3D printing’s ability to increase accessibility to information and open doors to research.

“What inspired me to work with the anthropology professor was when they take fossil scans and they upload them to databases, so people all around the world can just print them out and be able to look at them,” she says. A bone segment that may live in a lab a flight away could instead be printed out in the comfort of one’s own facility in less time than it would take to travel there. “That is just remarkable to me,” she muses. “I want to be involved in that.”

Beyond inspiring her students to think outside the box and consider the possibility of applying their art degree outside the world of art, Callas also gives them the final piece of the puzzle: job postings.

“I’m always collecting job descriptions that include 3D printing and 3D scanning and digital modeling,” Callas says. “One of my students could walk right into a medical position with the scanning and the 3D printing [they learn].”

“If you had told me when I was in middle school that I could possibly work in the medical field, I would have told you, ‘What are you talking about? There’s just no way,’” says Haug. “I didn’t even consider the thought that this could be something that would be so interdisciplinary.”

A 3D printed eco-mask by Kimberly will be available at an upcoming auction at Sotherby’s in New York City, October 15th: https://kimberlycallas.com/take-home-a-nude-at-sotherbys-new-york-october-15th/

See more of Kimberly’s 3D printed pieces of work: https://www.artworkarchive.com/profile/kimberly-callas/collection/3d-prints

Saying ‘I Do!’ To 3D Printing For A Wedding

It’s that lovely time of year again where love is all amongst us as weddings are galore! More than a handful of our teammates have utilized the power of 3D printing with Gigabot to create wedding decor that reduces costs while optimizing creative expression & personalization… so we thought we’d share their applications in hopes to inspire 3D printing for your special day.

4 Ways To Utilize 3D Printing For A Wedding (& Why You Should)

3D Printed Wall Decor Lighting Up The Dance Floor 

Jeric 3D printed and assembled an LED sign for his sister’s wedding. The printed parts took 14 hours in total to make using a combination of PLA & PETG – PETG for the front, translucent part of the sign and PLA for everything else. He used super glue and hot glue to hold everything together. He also installed LEDs throughout the inside – the LEDs are RGB and have a transmitter connected, so they can use a remote to control the color and light-up patterns. Check out the photos from the full build process in this album.

Why use 3D printing?

“3D printing gave me amazing flexibility in the design, but also let me quickly build a functional 3D design.”
Jeric Bautista

The 3D Printed Icing On Top of the Cake: 3D Printed Wedding Toppers

Alessandra designed & 3D printed ‘Mr&Mrs’ wedding cake toppers and table decorations for Samantha Snabes’ sister’s wedding. They took about 1 hour to design and model for each print and the wedding cake topper took approximately 1 hour to print while the table decoration took about 43 hours to print using silver PLA. The prints were then spraypainted with gold. Access the wedding topper designs for free here on our Sketchfab

Why use 3D printing?

"Weddings are expensive but custom wedding items are extremely expensive. With 3D printing, you can literally shape your dreams without having to go bankrupt. Time-wise, I was able to get a specific picture from the customer's Pinterest and generate a 3D model under 1 hour. Even if one of the models takes 43 hours to print, you can leave Gigabot in charge while you go home, watch series and take a nap, so you virtually save those 43 hours of possible manual work.”
Alessandra Montano
3D Printed Wedding Cake Topper

A Trove of Treasures In A 3D Printed Chest: 3D Printing Gifts

Mike B. 3D printed a Zelda treasure chest for a Zelda themed wedding. The chest had a slot at the top to drop in gift cards. He also 3D scans newlyweds when he goes to weddings and ships them print-outs of themselves a few months later. For the Zelda treasure chest, he used hinges from the hardware store, a bit of Bondo to give a wood texture, acrylic paint, and a clear coat. The design took 2 hours, and Mike kept changing it to look more authentic to the game. The portraits were printed in white PLA and scanned with a Structure Sensor. Scans were cleaned up a bit in MeshMixer.

Why use 3D printing?

"For many fabricated items, the materials inform the design but with 3D printing, you can make virtually anything if you can model it. A treasure chest would traditionally be made with wood and metal. You can mimic lots of different fabrication methods all with the same two tools, a CAD program, and a Gigabot. The Zelda treasure chest needed to look cartoony so in this case, it was actually easier to prime/paint than a metal/wood fabrication would have been. 3D printing is indispensable for prop design! For the scans, someone would have had to sculpt them; this was more of a portrait captured at the moment which I think is special.”
Mike Battaglia

3D Printed Accessories: A Life-Sized Diamond Isn’t Tough

Tammie 3D printed a diamond to be a light within a large diamond ring to further accessorize the wedding. She used natural PLA and it took 1.5 to 2 hours to complete the print using Gigabot and didn’t do any post-processing work on the prints.

Why use 3D printing?

“I would have never found a diamond this large to display for the day! Thankfully for the size of Gigabot and the versatility of 3D printing, it was made possible.”
Tammie Vargas

There you have it! Four special 3D printing applications for very special days. Don’t forget to check out the pics above and free downloads on our Sketchfab! Also, we’d love to know – what have you printed for weddings & special occasions? Don’t hesitate to share on our forum! Until then…happy printing ever after 🙂

FFF1: Our FFF1rst Polymer Derby

On April 9, 2019 re:3D hosted the first annual FFF1: Polymer Derby!  You may be wracking your brain trying to figure out what we are talking about here, so let me explain:

We challenged each other to a gravity car racing competition.  Quite similar to a Pinewood Derby (in fact we borrowed a pinewood derby track from local Cub Scout Pack 595) – each competitor designed a car, printed it on Gigabot, attached some wheels – and we were off to the races on derby day!

As a distributed team, with competitors in Houston, Austin, Puerto Rico, and New York – we established a rule from the start that you must design your own car  and if you require help with your design (since not everyone is a 3D design wizz) you had to reach out to someone in a different location from your home office.

We thought this was a great opportunity to not only get everyone designing and printing in 3D – but to also make sure that our distributed team members interacted with someone from a different office on something fun that wasn’t just work related.

Almost immediately after announcing the competition, (in mid-January) we had questions, everyone wanted to know the rules, which admittedly didn’t yet exist, and our engineers were particularly interested in finding loopholes in said rules so that they could cheat the system.  I promised the team that I would write-up an entire tome of rules and got to work, we started with the basic size parameters (borrowed from the pinewood derby to fit their track), and then added layer upon layer of bureaucracy and ridiculousness on top of what should be a relatively straightforward idea (I will post rules examples at the very end of this post).

The cars had to:

  • Weigh no more than 5.00 oz
  • Length shall not exceed 7 in
  • Width shall not exceed 2.75 in
  • Car must have 5/16″ clearance underneath
  • Wheels must be unmodified (we gave everyone a standard set of wheels)

Ultimately the designs were up to each individual’s creativity.

Come derby day, there was an amazing diversity in designs.  The track was setup in the front showroom of our Houston HQ.  We had an official weigh-in and measurement period to check that all cars conformed to the rules.  We made up t-shirts to memorialize the day.  And then we started the competition.

Each competitor chose a number from a hat – to get randomly assigned a place on our competition bracket.  We then competed best out of 3 heats, with racers switching sides (there were only 2 racers at a time) after each heat. As the day went on, the biggest determining factor in the fastest cars was the weight.  Any racer that was below 5.00 oz was at a distinct disadvantage, and all of the cars in the quarter-finals and beyond were at the target weight exactly.

When all was said and done we had a winner! Technically we had two winners – the Fastest Car – won the racing piece of the competition.  The Flyest Ride – was voted as the best looking car by all of the competitors.   Congratulations to Samantha (fastest car) and Mitch (flyest ride).

Stay tuned for more Polymer Derby fun, as this will definitely become an annual event at re:3D, and perhaps across the world?!  Sign-up for our newsletter to always be up-to-date on what’s happening at re:3D.

Looking forward to next year's competition!

International Polymer Derby Congress Rules & Regulations (These are just a small sampling of the rules for this competition):

  1. Cars shall be 3D printed – in any material that is currently able to be 3D printed.
  2. The majority of the car shall be printed on an FFF/FDM style 3D printer, but does not have to be printed in one piece.
  3. The car must be free-wheeling, with no starting or propulsion devices

Inspections:

The day of the race, while style voting and race seeding is taking place, race officials will open the Inspection Zone:

  1. Cars will be Inspected individually for conformity to all rules of the IPDC and the Polymer Derby Championship Racing Series (PDCRS).
  2. Each car will be weighed (see weight requirements Sec. 1.2 A-I. above)
  3. Each car will be measured for length, width, ground clearance, and wheel clearance (Sec. 1.2B – I-IV).
  4. Each car will be thoroughly inspected for any potential safety or hazard violations
  5. Each car’s wheels will be gone over with a fine tooth comb, as modification of stock wheels is strictly prohibited (In accordance with Sec. 1.2 C – I & II)
    1. Any car found to have illegal modifications to the wheels is subject to being gleefully smashed with a hammer by a race official (viewer discretion is advised)

Failed Inspections:

  1. Any competitor’s car that is found to not pass inspection will have an opportunity to adjust/fix their vehicle and have it re-inspected. An explanation of why the car failed inspection will be given to each competitor and the racer will have 10 minutes to make the proper adjustments to bring their vehicle into conformity with the race rules.
  2. If the racer fails to bring their car into conformity within 10 minutes, fails to present their car for re-inspection before the 10 minute time period is up, OR fails the inspection for a second time – the car is no longer eligible for the Fastest or Flyest awards (Sec. 8 Subsec I-III.), but is eligible for the Junker award (Sec. 8 Subsec. IV.).
    1. Cars that fail the secondary inspection may still participate in the tournament for fun, but will not be eligible to win.
    2. If you make illegal modifications that go undetected by the judges, but manage to make your first run before judges take notice, you may continue using your illegal car without reprimand. Gamble at your own risk.

Style Voting:

While the fastest car down the track is the ultimate winner – there will be style points given out for the car that looks the best.

  1. Subjective voting will take place by each competitor at the beginning of the competition.
  2. The voters/competitors may use any method of determining the best “looking” car that they see fit.
  3. Each competitor will fill out a secret ballot to determine their favorite car.
  4. Each competitor will vote only once and can not vote for themselves
  5. Bribes for style votes, while not illegal, are harshly discouraged.

Grievances:

Official grievances may be filed.

  1. For a grievance about a particular heat/race the grievance will only be valid if:
    1. Filed within 180 seconds of the race ending, in written form, adhering to the following parameters:
      1. Printed, in landscape orientation, on standard sized paper (8.5”x11”)
      2. Comic sans font
        1. font size = 17.5pt.
      3. The grievance must follow the standard limerick format
        1. Five lines – 2 long, 2 short, 1 long,
        2. Rhyme scheme AABBA
      4. Sent via USPS standard mail, postage paid to:

International Polymer Derby Congress
Department of Rules, Grievances, and Dispute Resolution
re:3D, Inc
1100 Hercules Ave, Suite 220
Houston, TX 77058

Or hand delivered, with a bow/curtsey, directly to the Rules Czarina or Czarina designate for an immediate ruling

Awards:

  1. Fastest: Fastest car to win the final race, wins the Polymer Derby Champion Award
  2. Flyest: Top vote getting car for style wins the “Best-in-Show” – Flyest Car award
  3. Little Miss Fly-Ride Should the top style car and top speed car be one in the same – the title of “Champion of Champions” or “Little Miss Fly-Ride” will be bestowed upon the winner along with lavish praise and an award of at least one but not to exceed 100 cheap beers.
  4. Junker: The “Junker” award goes to any car that fails to make it down the track, or breaks at any point during the competition.  It is quite embarrassing.
  5. Flunker: The “Flunker” award goes to any car that fails the pre-race inspection, and is not eligible to win awards I-III of this section.

Embracing New Tech in an Old Trade: Firebird 3D

Chad Caswell understands that this is a difficult concept for people to grasp.

“You’re going directly from a very digital process into a very old process where you’re grinding metal and welding and piecing it together.”

Caswell is the founder and owner of Firebird 3D, a company in Troutdale, Oregon which provides technical services to artists in the form of digital sculpting, CNC foam milling, 3D scanning, and of course, 3D printing. He uses these technologies to help artists more easily and affordably cast their work in bronze, a service which he does in conjunction with Firebird Bronze, a full service foundry owned and operated by Rip Caswell, his father.

As a trailblazer in this arena, Caswell understands the thought process of many artists and foundry owners on the topic of technology in the art world.

“I think a lot of people are scared that their jobs – their livelihoods – are going to be obsolete,” he muses. “But I think what foundries and people working in the art industry need to realize is that this is a tool that can make their lives a lot easier, and if they can work with it, they can produce a lot more work a lot more efficiently.”

Caswell has fully embraced the power of technology to transform business, and he understands firsthand that this is not something that poses a threat to his career or the artists with whom he works. “They’re still going to need to cast all these parts as if they’re wax: weld them, gate them, dip them in slurry, build them, and color them, just like they have for the last couple thousand years.”

The Model T Project

It was a particular project that spurred Caswell into the world of 3D printing: the memorialization of a famous Oregon landmark.

“We got the Gigabot when we got our first big project of 3D printing the Model T car, and that’s how we were able to skip the mold on that.”

Prior to 3D printing, Caswell aided artists in taking their work from model to bronze sculpture using a CNC machine. “At the beginning of business, we started off doing foam enlargements where the artists would bring us a maquette – like a small sculpture – and we would 3D scan that and use the CNC machine to enlarge it in foam.”

And although a big advancement from having to sculpt a piece in full by hand, this method came with its downsides. The porous foam still required artists to put clay on top of the form and re-sculpt the details, and then a silicone rubber and hard shell mold had to be made over the entire surface of the piece.

“It’s a very costly and time-consuming process,” explains Caswell. “If it’s a one-of-a-kind piece, you now have a big mold that you’ve paid a lot of money for that’s completely obsolete.”

But this was the standard process for large pieces of work; for smaller ones they turned to a Stratasys Objet Printer. “It hasn’t been used in three years,” says Caswell. “It’s a very, very costly process where it could cost over $1,000 for a liter of this resin, and so you would only do really small things.”

Then came an opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind piece to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first scenic highway in the US: the Historic Columbia River Highway. The 75-mile stretch of road through the Columbia River Gorge was to be memorialized in a statue of its creators – Sam Hill and Sam Lancaster – and the car they first drove on it: a Ford Model T.

Caswell started in the way he traditionally did, sculpting the piece in foam. “We realized how long it was going to take to get all those perfect shapes, and form the tire, and do all that detail work,” he recounts. “Then we had mold makers starting to bid it and the costs were just getting really, really high.”

Rip Caswell came to his son to see if there was another way. “He knew I was doing some 3D printing,” Caswell recounts, “and he said, ‘Can you look into this and see if there’s any way to bypass the mold and just design in the computer and 3D print it.’”

Caswell started by talking to the foundry about the ideal specs of a printer to fit into their casting process. “There’s lots of little printers out there that are inexpensive,” explains Caswell, “but the foundry was saying that the printer should match the slurry tank at the foundry. The volume of that that they can reasonably pour is two foot, by two foot, by two foot.”

A search on the internet led Caswell to a printer that fit the bill.

“I looked around and that’s when I found the big Gigabot that was going to be able to handle our printing volume,” he says. “It’s exact same parameters as the foundry, so anything I print on there I can directly go to the foundry and not have to worry about size issues.”

Their first foray into the world of bronze casting directly from 3D prints was a success. “It worked out perfectly,” says Caswell.  “We were able to directly invest the 3D prints into the bronze. We saved a ton of money and a lot of time.”

Caswell remembers some of the numbers they were quoted by mold makers for the Model T project prior to their Gigabot purchase. “We had a couple people bid the mold, and it could have cost maybe three or four times what it would cost to print it.” And that, he explains, was only for the mold, and not counting the sculpting and original design work that would have been required.

“That would have been very costly and could have taken months of work, whereas the Gigabot was able just to run 24/7 and 3D printed it perfectly, ready to go.”

A Life Size Lion

Caswell has been met with a lot of excitement from his clients about the power of the technology he’s using.

Even if a job doesn’t go through, he says, “they’re excited to know the project can be printed no matter what.” Having the ability to print such large panels for bronze casting has opened the door to big ideas, and Caswell is in the fortunate position of being able to entertain them.

“We have a lot of jobs that come to us, and being able to say the sky’s the limit to our clients is pretty awesome.”

One such job that Caswell has recently taken on is the 3D printing of a life size lion.

He had already done a smaller lion – “about quarter scale,” he says – so he was able to scan that and enlarge it for the new job. This is where 3D printing comes in handy, Caswell explains. “You’re able to take something small or large and blow it up or shrink it down using 3D scanning and 3D printing.”

The piece is notable, Caswell says, “because of how big it is, but how simple the Gigabot made it.”

“The body size is perfect,” he explains. “I 3D printed the entire torso in one section.” The large 3D printed pieces then make it very easy for the foundry to cast and assemble.

The process sans 3D printer would be a lot more laborious, Caswell explains. “If we didn’t have the Gigabot, we would have to mold it out in foam and spend a couple months sculpting it, redoing all that detail that was originally there, and then another couple months molding it.”

And from a time standpoint, it’s night and day. “I 3D printed the lion in three weeks and it’s already ready for casting,” says Caswell.” From there, it’ll probably only take them 12 weeks to finish it. The entire project will take about five months, whereas the old way of sculpting it could take over a year.”

The price difference, he underscores, is also substantial. It’s not a ten or 20 percent savings, it’s more like 50 or 60 percent.

3D Printing: The Future for Artists

“3D printing is definitely the future for future artists,” Caswell muses.

There are so many benefits in several different departments, he explains, from the time savings, to the costs savings, to space savings.

“With 3D printing, we have the ability to digitally store sculptures in the computer.” What this means is that molds that would typically take up valuable floor space can now be stored on a hard drive.

“We can save a lot of space at our foundry which is huge concern because we hold on to all of our clients’ molds all in the same building,” Caswell explains. “Being able to throw away the ones that are being unused and store those files digitally is pretty great.”

Aside from taking up precious real estate, physical molds are also subject to degradation over time.

While it would be great to have molds on hand from a previous sculpture commission if the artist wanted the piece casted again in the future, the quality of that mold after a few years’ time is going to be compromised, and the final piece will take a significant amount of finish work and extra bronze. “Knowing that at any point, I can fly down to where that sculpture is and 3D scan it, come back home and 3D print it on the Gigabot is very reassuring,” says Caswell.

Caswell sees 3D printing as leveling the playing field for artists.

“I think it opens up a huge opportunity for people who are looking to pursue art as a career; being able to start at their computer rather than worrying about renting out a studio or destroying their home with clay,” he explains. “They’re able to work digitally in a clean small workspace, and, with 3D printing, go directly into the foundry.”

Project storage is also just as much a concern for artists as it is for foundries. “A lot of artists have to store their own molds in their house,” says Caswell. “Sometimes they’ll do a big job, and they spent five or ten thousand dollars on those molds. It seems weird to just throw them in the garbage after the projects.”

Much like foundries, many artists thus end up holding onto old molds on the offhand chance they want to cast them again.

A better option, says Caswell? “They can come to me, I can 3D scan it and give them a flash drive they can fit in their pocket, and that’s all they need.”

Learn more about Firebird 3D and the digital services they provide artists: https://www.firebird3d.com/

Check out the foundry portion of the process at Firebird Bronze: http://www.firebirdbronze.com/

The Last Lockdown

It’s a disturbing sight. The desk is scratched with graffiti, and a terrified-looking figure cowers underneath – a small girl – with fingers wrapped around one leg of the desk.

The haunting scene is only a statue, but the fear conveyed on the young girl’s face is real. The statistics etched into the surface of the desk say it all: “During the 2017-2018 school year, the US averaged more than one school shooting per week.” “Guns are the third leading cause of death for American children.” “22 kids are shot every day in America.” They go on.

Daniel Crumrine and Sean Leonard are the creative duo behind the jarring sculpture. Both senior creatives in the ad industry in Austin, Texas, the two were spurred on by the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida to put their advertising skills to work for a good cause.

“We were inspired by the youth who were taking charge and making their voices heard,” recounts Crumrine. “They were – and still are – desperate for the issue to remain top of mind. Unfortunately, we knew the issue of gun violence against kids and students would fade from the news cycle after a while until it happened again. This project is our way of drawing – and keeping – attention on the issue.”

The piece is in fact more than just one statue: it’s ten, scattered across the country on their September 15th reveal in cities from Irvine to Parkland.

The statues were strategically placed in districts “represented by members of Congress who receive a significant amount of money from the gun lobby,” explains Crumrine. The timing is no coincidence: it’s back-to-school season and midterm elections will be taking place in just a few weeks.

“We know the gun issue is a sensitive one with strong opinions on both sides and that one stunt or installation won’t solve all our problems,” says Crumrine, “but we want to engage both sides.”

The idea for the piece came about because they wanted to bring attention to an ugly truth that many prefer not to think or talk about.

“Even for parents, it’s difficult to imagine the drills their sons and daughters are being taught in school,” Crumrine says. “So we wanted people to not just conceptualize it, but really see it and feel it.” The drills alone can be a taxing experience for kids, and, as he puts it, “it’s important for that emotion to be relayed to adults.”

They settled on a sculpture for its interactive nature as well as its realism. “A three-dimensional statue forces you to stop and look at it. It’s tactile – you can go up to it and study it, touch it, interact with it,” says Crumrine.

“Another reason we thought this statue was interesting is because it flips what a traditional statue represents,” he says. “Most statues are celebratory or honorary. This captures a moment that should make you uneasy and your stomach a little unsettled. We wanted that emotive reaction.”

Design & Fabrication of the Statues

With the idea born, the pair began making moves to bring the project to fruition.

“After we came up with the idea, we brought on colleagues who could help us bring it to life,” Crumrine recounts. Caleb Sawyer was their go-to 3D modeler, and with a CAD sculpture in hand, they began pitching the idea to organizations within the national gun reform movement.

They immediately got a positive response from Manuel Oliver, whose organization Change the Ref works to raise awareness about mass shootings and reduce the influence of the NRA on the Federal level. Oliver’s son was one of the 17 murdered in Parkland.

The pitch also piqued the interest of Giffords, a prominent gun reform organization started by Gabrielle Giffords, the US Representative from Arizona who survived being shot in the head in an assassination attempt as she met with constituents.

The two uniquely-impacted individuals came together to lend their own touch to the project. “Mr. Oliver collaborated with us to refine the design of the statue and led the push to make it a guerrilla-style national launch, and Giffords funded the project and is bringing it to life,” explains Crumrine.

The actual creation of the statues posed its own set of challenges.

“Our first thought was to do a bronze casting,” says Crumrine. But they quickly discovered that process would be both cost- and time-prohibitive. They looked into other materials, like foam. “What it came down to, ultimately, was what gave us the most realism and what was most cost-effective,” he recounts. “3D printing pretty quickly became the obvious choice.”

They decided on a multimedia approach: they would 3D print the girl and use a real school desk, both finished with a post-processing technique to lend a bronze-casted look to the piece.

The perk of using Gigabot for the project is that the girls could be printed all in one go, with no need to affix different sections post-printing. At a height of about two feet, they fit easily within the build volume of the Gigabot XLT. The ten girls were printed in our Houston office and sent to PBE Exhibits where Adam Fontenault handled the post-processing.

“Our main goal throughout this part of the process was realism, from the size of the statue to the look on her face,” Crumrine says. “We even wanted the faux bronzing to look as realistic as possible. Adam lightly sanded the printed statues and primed them to smooth out any visible print lines. He used a mixture of materials to achieve the lightly-patinated bronze look.”

The result is a statue that looks casted, at a fraction of the price and time it would have taken to go through that process.

“We’re thrilled with the final outcome,” says Crumrine. “She looks very lifelike, and the detail on the print is amazing. The bronze paint brings out additional features and makes the whole statue really pop.”

Prompting Policy Change and Conversation

The installation has gotten some major press following its September debut, making headlines in AdweekThe Washington Post, and CNN, among others. It’s a big step for visibility of the project, whose intent is severalfold.

“The first is to raise awareness of how pervasive the issue of gun violence against children really is and to force people to confront it,” Crumrine explains. “The second goal is to show how art as activism can be a vehicle for positive change. And the third goal is to educate people and motivate them to demand change.”

It’s a hot-button topic with many complicated layers, but Crumrine and Leonard hope that the installation can break through partisan arguments to the ultimate message: keeping kids in school safe from gun violence.

“Inevitably, this issue is loaded with political baggage,” says Crumrine. “But we’re hoping this project can at least focus the conversation around how to keep our nation’s children from being innocent victims.”

The idea is to spark policy change as much as it is to spark conversation.

“We hope we get strong reactions from both sides. We want it to be uncomfortable to see because it’s an uncomfortable thing to talk about,” Crumrine explains. “There will always be people who viscerally accept its message or viscerally reject it. But we want the people in the middle to consider what it’s actually saying.”

And as for the name of the cross-country installation?

“The title of the piece is ‘The Last Lockdown,’ because that’s the ultimate dream outcome,” explains Crumrine. “We want to help create a world where we’ve already seen the last one, but we’re not naïve enough to think it’ll happen overnight. This is hopefully a step in that direction.”

The Last Lockdown statues can be seen in the following ten cities:

Irvine, California

Parkland, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Houston, Texas

St. Paul, Minnesota

Las Vegas, Nevada

Denver, Colorado

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Spokane, Washington

Monumental Sculpture Bronze Casting with Deep in the Heart

It’s a sweltering, sunny July day in the small Texas town of Bastrop, and two men in what appear to be suits that you might wear to descend into a volcano are pouring what looks like lava from a cauldron.

I’m at Deep in the Heart, the largest fine art foundry in Texas, and I’m witnessing a bronze pour.

Clint Howard bought the foundry in 1999 and has grown it from five employees and 1,200 square feet to a team of 34 and about 22,000 square feet. “We’re like a publishing house,” he explains. They work with 165 artists around the world and turn their work into bronze or stainless steel monumental sculpture.

The bronze casting process – called lost-wax casting – is a 5,000+ year old art still being done in the same fashion as it was millennia ago.

“It’s a five generation process,” Clint explains. They start by creating the original sculpture, then making a mold on that sculpture, and then making a wax copy of the sculpture. A ceramic mold is made on the wax copy and flash-fired at 1,700 degrees to melt the wax out – hence the name lost-wax casting. With the wax gone, they’re left with a ceramic vessel that they can pour molten metal into, leaving them with the final sculpture.

Ten years ago, Clint decided that the business needed to start embracing technology.

“At the time, my focus was on 3D laser scanning and CNC milling,” he explains. “We got into the industry by buying a scanner and a huge CNC mill.” They would scan the sculpture and mill it piece by piece out of styrofoam.

“We did a lot of work for a lot of different artists in this technique,” he recounts, but, as he explained, “you still have to sculpt the whole piece full-size.” Clint describes the process as a huge “paint by numbers.” The styrofoam model gives them the outline and where the detail should be, but they still have to do all the fingerprint detail by hand with clay on top of the styrofoam form.

3D printing really wasn’t on their radar, Clint explains, until several years later.

Life Sized Dinosaurs

Clint got the fateful phone call four years ago from a dinosaur museum in Australia with a project proposal. “They wanted us to produce a herd of dinosaurs and they wanted to prove that it could be done all digitally,” Clint recounts.

The sculptures of the dinosaurs had been modeled in CAD, and the museum wanted Deep in the Heart to 3D print them in a material that could be direct-cast, circumventing “a whole lot of steps” in the casting process, in Clint’s words.

“Of course we had no idea what they were talking about or even where to start,” says Clint, “but they had done the research.” The museum had found Gigabot through Kickstarter and thought it would be an ideal fit given the proximity of the re:3D office to the foundry. “They basically said, ‘We want to do this – how many dinosaurs will this much money get us?’”

Deep in the Heart got their first Gigabot and quickly started experimenting how to best integrate 3D prints into their casting process. They ended up with 14 life-size dinosaurs – a nine-foot-tall, 13-foot-long velociraptor chasing a herd of smaller dinos – which now reside outside the Australian Age of Dinosaurs in Queensland, Australia.

The cost-savings of the project using the new 3D printing method were dramatic.

“To get 14 dinosaurs produced and installed for, let’s say, $120,000,” Clint says, “to do that traditionally – to have sculpted them full scale, to have molded them full-scale, and gone through the traditional lost-wax casting – we would’ve gone triple budget.”

"Unforeseen Benefits"

The dinosaur project was four years ago now, and Clint has since added two more Gigabots to their arsenal. “We bought the second one almost immediately and eventually decided we needed a third one,” he recounts.

Deep in the Heart’s specialty is monumental sculpture: their business is making really large pieces of art. “By having three [Gigabots],” Clint explains, “I can be printing three simultaneously, run them 24 hours a day, and it allows us the capacity to move a bigger piece through quicker.” They could do the job with one machine, he explains, but they want to move faster.

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The benefits of incorporating 3D prints into their casting process have been unexpected and multitudinous.

“One of the unforeseen benefits of 3D printing that I really didn’t expect in the beginning is the consistency and thickness that we can generate in the computer is far superior to anything that we can do by by hand,” Clint muses.

The traditional method is less precise: pouring molten wax into a mold and pouring it out, or painting liquid wax onto the surface of a mold. “We’re trying to gauge that thickness by experience; which direction the wind’s blowing that day,” Clint remarks. “I mean, we’re trying and we can get fairly close, but we have variances within our thicknesses.”

This means they’re often using more bronze in a sculpture than is actually necessary – yielding costlier pieces – simply because the wax mold is made by the imperfect human hand.

Replace the wax mold with a 3D printed one, and the thickness is now precisely and uniformly set in the computer. “It’s going to be exactly that consistency through every fold, every detail,” says Clint.

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“That really allows us to control our costs,” he comments. It also unexpectedly increased the quality of their casting, because with the 3D prints – as opposed to wax molds – “there’s no movement.”

“Wax is innately flexible,” Clint explains. Large sculptures are cast in many different sections – the massive buffalo they’re currently working on will be 30 or 40 separate pieces – and “each of those sections has the potential to warp slightly.” That means they’re often hammering and muscling the different pieces into alignment when it comes to assembling the final sculpture.

“With the 3D prints, they don’t move. At all.” Clint estimates that the assembly time of a monument that’s been 3D printed is about half that of one cast using wax molds.

The Rule of Three

“Most of the time when a commissioning party is asking for a monument to be made, they’re asking it to be a unique one-of-a-kind,” says Clint.

He explains that 99% of large sculptures out there start their life as a maquette – a miniature version of the big one. “That small maquette is where all the design work happens. It’s where all the artistic creativity happens.” The full-size sculpture is then just a mathematical formula of duplicating the miniature.

“Where 3D printing comes into play,” he explains, “is you don’t have to sculpt it big.”

They can take the small model, whether they sculpted it traditionally and then 3D scanned it, or whether they modeled it directly in the computer using CAD software, and they can print that model full-scale. This cuts out multiple parts of the process: they no longer have to sculpt full-scale, rubber mold full-scale, or make a a full-scale wax copy.

“I mean, you can literally just go straight from the printer into the ceramic shell process, and then you can cast.” The PLA material they print with burns out almost identically to wax, he explains.

It’s a huge time, energy, and cost-savings for them as a foundry. And for the artists, as Clint puts it, it allows them to go big faster. “It also allows artists to be more competitive because there’s not all those steps they’re having to pay for.”

Clint describes the cost savings rule of thumb as a “rule of three.” If a certain piece is going to be produced more than three times, “it might be cost-effective to do it the traditional method of actually sculpting the piece full-scale and making a mold on it,” he says.

“But if it’s going to be produced three times or less,” he explains, “the 3D printing route is cheaper.”

Where History and Technology Melt Together

“The cool thing about what we do is there’s always some historical significance,” explains Clint. “There’s always some story. What we’re doing is more than just an object.”

He’s referring specifically to the foundry’s focus at the time of this visit: a piece called The Splash, which is now installed in Dublin, California.

The sculpture pays homage to the role that a natural spring has played in the growth of the city, dating back to a Native American tribe. “The water is a very integral part of the city’s history,” explains Clint. “It’s also a very integral part of the native Americans that still live there, because the whole reason that this area was settled was because of this spring.”

The piece is 150 feet long: a large fluid-looking figure from which seven splashes emanate. Clint walks through the design: a water spirit has skipped a stone, causing these seven splashes. Each splash has a harmonic frequency superimposed into its face, which, Clint explains, is a “very specific part of the story.”

He goes on to recount that in the 1960s or 70s, the only surviving members of the tribe who still spoke the native tongue passed away. The tribe had lost their language.

In the 90s, anthropologists visited the area with wax cylinder recordings taken by anthropologists in the 1910s and 1920s who visited and recorded their language. “Luckily enough,” Clint goes on, “the elders in the community remembered their grandparents speaking the language enough to be able to help the anthropologists pull the language out of all of these recordings.”

Since this visit in the 90s, the tribe has now rediscovered their native language, and the sound waves on the surface of the bronze splashes pay homage to this.

“What we’ve got in all of these splashes is seven generations of members of the tribe saying ‘Thank you’ to the water spirit,” Clint explains. “That harmonic pattern is their voice frequency that was taken by technology, and then visualized in technology, and then superimposed on this sculpted splash in the computer, and then 3D printed so that each one of those splashes has the fingerprint of the voice of a [generation] of this tribe saying thank you.”

The impact of technology is woven throughout the story, from the rediscovery of the tribe’s native language to the creation of the sculpture to commemorate the role of water in the city’s history.

“It’s amazing,” Clint remarks. “Technology allowed it all to be created in the computer. The piece was 100% sculpted in 3D software and the monument has been 100% 3D printed and cast using the technology.”

Blending Old and New

It’s hard not to draw parallels between Clint’s commentary about the future of bronze casting and The Splash piece which his team produced.

The role of technology is steeped in both narratives. It’s been a tool, an enabler, a key to unlock a language and make a commemoration of that feat come to life.

And yet there can be pushback within the industry, resistance to the introduction of new technology that some see as a threat to the art’s centuries-old roots. “It’s a fine line to keep all of the ancient technology and the ancient techniques, and marry them with all this new stuff,” Clint comments.

But the basic process as the industry knows it is not going away, Clint explains.  “We’re still going to have to go through casting the same way,” he says. “What I’m starting to realize in the industry is that the traditional method will probably never die.”

Yes, several steps of the process are replaced by a single 3D print, but the piece still must be sculpted – whether physically or digitally – the bronze still must be poured, the sculpture still assembled and given its artistic hand-touch. The heart of the casting process is still very much there.

“But,” he goes on, “right now, I have probably 6,000 square feet of mold storage. Those molds are susceptible to handling, they’re susceptible to human error, they’re susceptible to just degradation over time.”

He sees a not-so-distance future where molds are obsolete, where a quarter of his floor space suddenly and miraculously becomes free for other use.

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“What the technology is leading me to believe is that very shortly, we’re going to have cloud based servers holding 3D files that represent the mold of the part,” he explains. “And now we can make that part any size we want. We can make it a little tiny miniature for a role playing game, or we can make it a 25-foot-tall monument to go in front of a casino in Vegas.” There’s no need to make a new mold for each varying size of a sculpture – it’s all done digitally – and the only storage space being used is on a hard drive.

Clint’s sights are set on the future, on the next generation of bronze casters.

“The artists that that are coming up and the artists that are going to be doing these monuments in 50 years, they’re all sculpting in the computer right now and they’re playing video games right now and they’re going to embrace that technology and that process.”

Clint has a profound respect for the age-old casting tradition, and he’s also a businessman. It’s his forward-thinking vision and willingness to dive into unknown territory that has helped him grow Deep in the Heart over the last nearly two decades.

“It is an amazing shift, and I definitely think that for the art foundries in the country to stay on top of it, they’re going to have to be embracing this technology and watching what’s happening and paying attention to all of these changes.”

Learn more about Deep in the Heart and their work on their website: http://deepintheheart.net/

The Mannequin Challenge

The Greneker office strikes me as a place you wouldn’t want to be stuck wandering at night, what with the bodies lurking around each corner. I scheduled my visit for early afternoon.

Greneker is a mannequin manufacturer based in Los Angeles, California. They’ve worked to stay cutting-edge in their industry since they started in 1934, always keeping pace with the latest groundbreaking materials and manufacturing methods, like moving from plaster to fiberglass around World War II.

They’re proving that even an entrenched player in the game isn’t too old to learn new tricks: their latest foray is into the worlds of digital and 3D printing.

Steve Beckman is President & COO at Greneker, and he’s been a part of the evolution of the company over the last 2+ decades as they’ve set themselves apart in their industry.

When I started with this business, we would get together as a group, we would look at the trends in the marketplace, and we would develop a line based on what we saw happening in the marketplace at that time.” It was a big gamble – the process was both costly and time-intensive – but that was just business as usual for them. “That was done with clay sculpting, so we would start with armatures and clay, go through the process ourselves, create an entire line of mannequins, and really just kind of rolled the dice and hope that it would sell to that market.”

Whereas they began by working independently from apparel manufacturers, Greneker found themselves doing more and more custom work for specific clients. They found their niches in the athletic wear and plus size markets, and working with big-name clients like Under Armour and Adidas in the clay design process provided its own set of challenges.

“It was a very long process to develop a line of custom mannequins,” Steve explains. “We would have to spend a great deal of time upfront with a client trying to figure out what they were looking for, what the poses were, what the dimensions were, what sizes these pieces were. The armatures would be set up by hand, the sculpting would be done by hand in clay. It would require several visits of the client on premises before we got an approval to move into the molding process to begin production.”

When working with athletic apparel clients, the challenges multiplied. As they started to get into sports-specific activities, posing came to be of utmost importance. “The poses are either accurate or they’re inaccurate,” Steve says. “If you try and put a golf mannequin in a golf shop and he is not in the proper position, the mannequin will be ripped apart by patrons.”

If you want to talk with someone about whether Greneker is in fact a creepy place to be stuck at night, Daniel Stocks is your man. As Senior Sculptor at Greneker – or Sculptor Extraordinaire, as Steve tended to refer to him – he’s the one responsible for following through on all those client requests.

“A lot of the time I would work late at night making all these adjustments and changes while the people are in town so that they [could] see it the next day,” Daniel recounts. And that was after starting from scratch on the figure: constructing a metal armature and building up the clay by hand.

True to their trailblazing past, Greneker began searching for ways to update their process and make themselves more efficient.

“We started to look at digital as a way of creating these pieces, and creating them precisely and accurately,” Steve recounts. “We’ve now moved from clay sculpting to everything being 3D printed, which has helped us in a myriad of ways.”

The 3D Printed Mannequin Challenge

Greneker dipped their toe into 3D printing with a smaller-scale CubeX and quickly realized the potential of the technology.

“We felt as a company that this was the direction that we needed to take, and we needed to go full steam ahead before some of our competitors became aware of the technology and started utilizing it,” Steve shares. They wanted to gain the competitive advantage before others caught wind of what they were doing. “And that’s one of the things we have done, we’ve positioned ourselves as the experts in this type of mannequin design.”

They purchased a few other small 3D printers, and then Daniel began the hunt for a large-scale printer with the right price tag. He came across Gigabot.

“Well, there was really nothing else on the market within a reasonable price point that would make pieces big enough for a full body,” Daniel muses.

“We selected the printer based on, again, the human body,” Steve explains. “We’re a mannequin manufacturer. We wanted larger printers to be able to print torsos and legs.” Their 3D printer arsenal includes a range of machines, from small-scale printers good for the details on hands and faces, up to the large size of Gigabot for cranking out large pieces.

“The challenge for us and my challenge to Daniel was to get a full-sized mannequin printed in one day,” Steve smiles. “It takes about 250 hours of print time to print a mannequin. In order to print it in one day, it was going to take a bunch of machines.”

Take a stroll through their office and you’ll come across the realization of this dream: a separate room tucked within their main sculpting area which they built specifically for 3D printing. “The Gigabots work fantastic for large-sized pieces, so we bought a bunch of them,” Steve recounts. Greneker is now up to four Gigabots – stacked two-by-two and suspended from the ceiling – which they house in this room along with their smaller-scale machines so they can run 24 hours a day.

“Before 3D printing, it would’ve been just unthinkable to make a mannequin in a day,” Daniel muses. “Now it’s actually possible.”

“A Myriad of Benefits”

Steve explained that the benefits that came with moving from clay design to digital and 3D printing have been numerous. The biggest savings may be from a time standpoint – they’re cutting from every aspect of the preproduction process.

“We save time throughout the entire process,” he shares.

Because everything is now digital, they no longer have to bring clients in to see mock-ups in person during the design process. “Instead of having clients visit, we can have video conferencing now, which accelerates the initial consultation period greatly,” Steve explains. “The client can sit on the other end – whether they’re across the country or across the world – and in real time we can make those changes and those tweaks to make these pieces exactly what they’re looking for.”

Daniel is particularly happy about this aspect as well. He still sometimes has to work on a time crunch, he explains, but “it’s less physical and it allows a lot more flexibility,” he explains. “If I have to, I can work from home on the computer and makes adjustments. It’s a lot quicker.”

“What,” you may ask, “does he mean by ‘physical?’” Miniature, scaled-down models of a mannequin to show clients weren’t possible before 3D printing, because the mini and full-scale versions can differ so much when working by hand in clay. So, as Steve recounts, the sculptors had to work in full-size clay as they went through the tweaking process, often while the clients were there in person. He explains, “We would bring the client in and then the sculptors would wrestle with the clay in front of the client until we got it to where it needed to be.”

No more mannequin manhandling. “With 3D printing, we take the digital model and we’ll produce a scaled model, usually about 18 inches tall, and then we can send that to the clients,” says Steve. “They can make sure that all the measurements fit where they like and that the posing is what it needs to be in. Once we get the sign-off at that point, then we produce a full-scale 3D print.”

Greneker will print a full-size version of the mannequin, which, with a little sanding and painting, will function exactly like the final mannequin, albeit not in the final material. That gets shipped to the client where the stakeholders can review the piece exactly as it will look in production.

This is immensely helpful for another portion of the process: the sign-offs. In the past, Greneker had struggled to get all of a client’s decision-makers in the room at once. “We would have a group of people come visit us that may or may not represent all of the stakeholders involved in the development,” Steve explains. “Ultimately, whatever approvals or opinions we received at that point could be superseded by someone else that hadn’t been here.”

That frustrating portion of the process is completely removed now. “With this new process,” Steve says, “the model goes in front of everybody, so it’s there for everyone to look at. You get a much, much tighter buy-in much more quickly.”

And of course, in the actual design process itself, the digital realm has also proven itself to be a clear winner over clay. “If you do something in clay, you do it by hand,” says Steve. “You can’t necessarily repeat that.”

No one is likely a bigger fan than Daniel. “It opens up a lot of new tools,” he explains. When designing a head, for example, he can take advantage of the symmetry tool in CAD. The work he’s done on one side of a face is automatically mirrored to the other. “Before, working in clay, we would have to try to make adjustments – ‘Which ear is higher? Are the eyes straight?’ Things like that it makes much simpler.”

It also aids with consistency and continuity if different sculptors are working on the same body. “If I have a large project and I have three sculptors working on it, because it’s three sets of hands, it may not look identical,” Steve explains. “With the digital design, we don’t have to worry about that. The design is the design and you can move it, change it, scale it, but it’s always the base design and it’s always obvious what it is, no question.”

The slashing of time from every part of the preproduction process goes hand-in-hand with cost-cutting. “Internally for the business, the change has been much more cost-effective,” Steve shares. “When I started, we would create lines based on – when it’s all said and done – it’s spaghetti on the wall. It’s our best guess of what was going to sell. We don’t have to do that any longer.”

That gamble used to be a risky one.

“When we did it in clay, you had to commit to it. Clay’s only got a very limited shelf life,” Steve explains. With CAD replacing clay at Greneker, there’s no more wasted effort and materials going into a design that doesn’t sell. Now, Steve says, “We can put a design that we think is cool together digitally and it can sit there as a model until there’s a market and a place for it.”

An Industry in Flux

“The apparel retail industry is in a great deal of flux right now,” Steve explains. “Online sales have really started to affect their brick and mortar sales. I don’t foresee some of the large scale roll-outs in malls in the near future, but what we do see is the need for smaller runs of more specific posing.”

And this – thanks to their calculated research and work – is where Greneker excels.

“What we see going forward is we need to be much more nimble, much faster, and much more cost-effective on the development side so that the retailers can afford to bring in specific mannequins for specific markets,” says Steve.

Greneker’s hard work to modernize and streamline their mannequin production process has paid off. “The marketplace is requiring speed to market. Everything has got to be done sooner rather than later,” Steve explains. “When we would sculpt and create a new line by hand, the process could take upwards of six months in preproduction. In 3D printing, now we’ve reduced that process to where it can be as short as just a few weeks.”

The tedious parts of their old process -the gambles on trends, the risk of botched posing, building up new armatures and clay bodies by hand, the endless on-site client visits to make tweaks and get approval – all of that is now off their plate.

“Right now, we’ve just finished realizing our first set of goals with 3D printing,” says Steve. “Our future goals: we’re going to bring in as many printers as it takes to be the absolute fastest to market as we can be. We want to stay ahead of our competition.”

Learn more about Greneker: greneker.com

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