3D Printing Molds

Well I suppose technically it’s not 3d printed clay… yet!

The process here is something that I have been working on. The idea is to use 3D printing to make a life-size replica of the final piece and then use plaster of paris to create molds for slipcasting. Using this technique we are able to get some very fine and intricate designs that would be nearly impossible by hand!

The first step in these pieces ares sketches. I always like to make sure the piece has a good profile. After I have a basic idea of what the piece will look like then I try to model it on the computer. It is here that I am able to make some of the complicated geometric patterns and textures that these pieces feature. After I am happy with both the look and texture of the piece then it’s on the printer to try and make it exist in real life!

Once it is printed I like to check and make sure that the printing process completed successfully. If the piece is not structurally sound it won’t stand up to the weight of a plaster casting. If the piece looks good then we make a soft clay form around half of the piece and enclose it in the cottle boards.

Here are the pieces being printed and then while they are in the soft clay…

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After they are enclosed in the cottle boads then I apply a mold soap to the entire surface of the clay and the cottle boards. We don’t want it to stick when we pull the mold apart! When mixing plaster you have to go quickly and make sure you get a good mix with no lumps and no air bubbles. Because the designs are so intricate I really need a flawless surface.

After the first half is dry then we take the modeling clay and remove it. I flip the model over and proceed to cast the other side.

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Here it is! Opening our plaster cast to take a first look at our mold. My new molds need to dry out for quite some time. Here in New York City it can be quite humid so the water retention can be quite high. I’d rather take the time to let it dry out properly at first then to have an issue with the piece later.

And now for the most exciting part!!! We get to actually slipcast the piece… I will cover the actual slip casting in another upcoming blog post.