Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Serge Ruffato: Mecha-Tower

Mecha-Tower started as a milling project for the Digital Fabrication class and ended as a finished bronze piece. Here is the process I went through to bring it from 3D modeling on the computer to the bronze casting process.

First I modeled it in Rihno, carefully making two separate faces knowing that they would be milled using a CNC bed mill (X-Y axis). Both parts were then sanded down and assembled to make one 3 dimensional piece as opposed to two reliefs. You guys might remember this rendering I posted a while back.

Although the scale is a little ambitious in this rendering, I always had in mind to make it either in a ferrous metal or in bronze. The next step was making a mold of my 3 dimensional piece and silicon (Rebound 25) seemed to be my best option because of the porous quality of the yellow foam I used for the milling. Adding an extra release agent won't hurt and will prevent the silicon from staying stuck in the deeper recesses. Here are images of the yellow foam, silicon mold and mother mold.

As you can see the mother mold was in two parts enabling its removal from the silicon mold which itself was split along the sides to be removed from the molded piece. I also added extra 'flaps' to the silicon mold to prevent the casting material from leaking along the sides. Next step was getting a wax version of the piece to get it ready for the bronze casting. Here are some images of the cast wax.

Keep in mind that this piece is hollow, which is a huge economy of material (bronze) and weight. To achieve a hollow cast I used a sloshing technique which involves filling up the mold with wax, waiting for it to cool down a little and poring the wax back out; leaving only a thin layer on the inside of the mold. This process is repeated until the desired width is attained. Then I needed to get my gates and sprues on, which enable the metal to flow fluidly and the gasses to escape easily during the bronze poor. Here are some images

Now the ceramic shell needs to be applied on the piece which will act as a waste mold for the bronze. The cup at the bottom is where the molten metal will be pored, once the wax is melted out (upside down).

Approximately 14 coats were applied to achieve a solid, but not too heavy ceramic shell. The rest of the process took place at the bronze poring facility at SCAD Atlanta. The wax is melted out of the shell in an oven, then the molten metal is pored into the shell and the shell is removed. Here is a quick view of what the piece looks like when most of the shell is removed.

From this point I sand blasted it, cut off the gates and sprues, cleaned up the surface and applied a patina. Here is the final product.

Mecha-Tower is an omen to mechanical times as opposed to the digital revolution that is happening today. Gears, bolts, screws and other mechanical elements inspire me not only by their beauty, but also by their functionality. My whole life I have been around mechanical machinery in my father's studio and I realize that I was interested in their aesthetic composition as an art piece more than their functionality. Furthermore, I enjoy the format of a tower, it puts emphasis on the subject and gives it a monumental aspect. Towers seem to serve as a statement or declaration most of the time. A mechanical tower or Mecha-tower is my way of saying here this is my medium and my world of inspiration. There is an interesting paradox between the concept and the means of creation in this piece. (More information at http://arttraffic.co.uk/arts/2595)

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