The art of science: It’s only a 3D printed moon

By Ali Green

13 September 2017

“There is an art to science, and a science in art; the two are not enemies, but different aspects of the whole.”  – Isaac AsimovIf you’re a regular reader of our blog you would know about the cool work our researchers are doing in our Additive Manufacturing Centre, Lab 22. Work including 3D printed rib cage implants for cancer patients, sleep apnoea devices to rid the world of snoring, a perfectly replicated 100 year old Delage racing car engine, fire-fighting drones and orthopaedic horse shoes.

The applications for 3D printing are endless and are transforming manufacturing as we know it. This new way of making things offers almost total design freedom and is leading to innovations in all sorts of industries – not only providing a different way to manufacture, but also offering reimagined products. Every week our scientists are finding new ways of using additive manufacturing to make new things.

“The greatest scientists are always artists as well” – Albert EinsteinAnd additive manufacturing is not exclusive to industry. Many artists have been early adopters of the technology, and they’re creating some very interesting works with it!

Marion Borgelt in collaboration with Alex Kosmas has capitalised on the design freedom provided by 3D printing to produce this truly insta-worthy installation called Bronze Tsukimi, a sculptural centrepiece in her current exhibition Moon’s Ghost, an extension of Marion’s Tsukimi themed designs celebrating the moon festival.

Marion said she likes to think of this sculpture as an expression of the changes and evolution in life and how everything is in constant motion, moving from one point to the next, or one phase to the next.

“I’ve used the moon’s repetitious cycle of full moon to new moon as a conduit and metaphor for expressing these broader more existential concerns. In fact the moon in all its ever present, ever changing glory serves as a reminder that life is transient and always in flux,” she said.

Marion uses different mediums and approaches in her art to express metaphysical concerns. She likes to use wood and often uses glass, stainless steel, gold leaf, or wood covered in duck eggshell. Up until now though, she had not used bronze, despite wanting to for several years. It seemed too challenging a medium. But then Marion met Alex Kosmas, a fellow artist with knowledge and experience in using bronze, and together they were able to realise Marion’s dream.

Alex suggested using 3D printing to create moulds for bronze casting, and he contacted Lab 22 for help. Our Voxeljet 3D sand printer specialist, Gary Savage, was just the man for the job! Gary was confident additive manufacturing could be used to create the moulds required to make the piece. All he and Alex needed to do was convince Marion to take a leap of faith and apply additive manufacturing technology to her sculpture. She agreed, and work began.

And Marion was very pleased with the end result.

“Bronze worked perfectly for me because, as a medium, it allows for the dark and the light to be created within the one material and 3D printing opened up a new methodology” she said.

The Bronze Tsukimi castings are hollow internally. If conventional pattern moulding techniques were used to create each of the moulds for this piece, they would require a separate core for the internal hollow area and an additional two mould halves for the outer sphere surface – three pieces in total for each sphere. Thanks to the design freedoms of 3D sand printing only two mould halves were required, with the top half designed to incorporate the core for the internal hollow area. This design is only possible using 3D printing and cannot be done using conventional pattern moulding methods.

Moon’s Ghost is currently on display at Dominik Mersch Gallery in Rushcutters Bay, but you’d better be quick if you want to see it. Exhibition closes 16 September and then the beautiful additively manufactured installation is looking to be headed overseas with a lucky buyer!

Can we help you create your next masterpiece using additive manufacturing?