Digital Fabrication Meets Bronze Casting at Cabrillo College

The pouring of molten bronze in hot flasks.

December 10, 2018

For the fall 2018 semester, students in the art digital fabrication classes, 95A, 95B, 196A, and 196B, had the unique and rare opportunity to cast their 3D printed PLA models in bronze for their final project. Taught by Payson McNett, department head for Sculpture and Digital Fabrication, the goal of this assignment was to encourage digital fluency and hands on experience. The 95A class was instructed to create a bell and classes 95B, 196A, and 196B were instructed to create an ancient relic.

The extraordinary aspect of the assignment was the range of skills needed to complete the assignments – from digital fabrication to the hands-on finishing of a bronze cast. On the digital side, students used 3D modeling tools su Rhino, Blender and Tinkercad to design their projects, then printed the models using the Ultimaker 3d printers. On the bronze side, Payson guided his students through the casting preparation and the pour. Briefly those steps include gating the PLA models, creating the flasks, immersing the PLA models in a special plaster(investment) and burning out the PLA. Finally, the bronze alloy was melted in a large crucible and poured into the hots flasks. The result – over 200 pounds of bronze was poured between the 9 flasks and over 80 bronze objects were successfully cast.

Payson setting up furnace

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