A Process for Glass Casting from 3D Printed Positives

I wrote recently about being selected for a Creative Glass Center of America Fellowship, but thought it was about time to show off some experimental castings I made there last fall that helped get me the fellowship. Last Summer I blogged a first test of this process, but this Fall I was able to do some more substantial castings and learn some more. Here’s some process shots:

Wheaton Arts is home to the Creative Glass Center of America in Millville, NJ, where I will have a fellowship this year, based on these experiments that I did this past fall to create a workflo for casting glass from 3D printed objects.

Wheaton Arts is home to the Creative Glass Center of America in Millville, NJ. It lives in this building, a recreation of a 19th century glass factory.

Hank Adams is the Creative Director of CGCA and he does an amazing job running a world class glass shop. Boola just likes eating scraps and thinks she's a person.

Hank Adams is the Creative Director of CGCA and he does an amazing job running a world class glass shop. Boola just likes eating scraps and thinks she’s a person.

While at Wheaton, I got to stay in this lovely vintage Airstream Trailer!

While at Wheaton, I got to stay in this lovely vintage Airstream Trailer!

These were my two successful casts. This slideshow will walk you through the process of creating them and attempt to share my learnings from the experience.

These were my two successful casts. This slideshow will walk you through the process of creating them and attempt to share my learnings from the experience.

I started with 3D prints. This is Makerbot's Artist figurine Zee, which was given to me by Rob Steiner at Bold Machines. I customized him with some devil horns made out of wax.

I started with 3D prints. This is Makerbot’s artist figurine Zee, which was given to me by Rob Steiner at Bold Machines. I customized Zee with some devil horns made out of wax.

I had three 3D Printed PLA pieces to cast altogether- A 24" tall Luna Park Tower (printed in sections), Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz 18" tall figure (printed on Makerbot's Z-18 printer), and the Zee figurine. I used some cardboard and hot glue to piece together a reservoir for each print before going to make a mold around each.

Altogether, I had three 3D Printed PLA pieces to cast- A 24″ tall Luna Park Tower (printed in sections), Mat Fraser and Julie Atlas Muz 18″ tall figure (printed on Makerbot’s Z-18 printer), and the Zee figurine. I used some cardboard and hot glue to piece together a reservoir for each print before going to make molds. I also used some brown wax to smooth some rough areas of the prints.

It was a beautiful day in the shade of the Studio's smokestack.

It was a beautiful day in the shade of the Studio’s smokestack.

I made some small sprues as air vents for the fine details on the tower.

I made some small sprues as air vents for the fine details on the tower.

I also cut wire mesh to reinforce the molds with.

I also cut wire mesh to reinforce the molds with.

I just used a cardboard box for a form for Zee.

I just used a cardboard box for a form for Zee. The bigger molds used tar paper as a form to cast the plaster around the 3D prints.

The classic mold material is a 50-50 mix of Plaster and Silica with wire lath as something to strengthen it. I did a first coat a little wet as a splash coat to make sure I really have the whole surface.

The classic mold material is a 50-50 mix of plaster and silica, with wire lath as something to strengthen it. I did a first coat a little wet as a splash coat to make sure I really have the whole surface.

The mold is filled with mix and sets up.

The mold is filled with mix and sets up.

Because of the silica, a mask is very important!

Because of the plaster and silica, a mask is very important!

It was a very long day of mixing plaster in 5 gallon buckets. The big molds were extremely heavy so I set them by the furnace to dry out some. I was sore that night!

It was a very long day of mixing plaster in 5 gallon buckets. The big molds were extremely heavy so I set them by the furnace to dry out some. I was sore that night!

They were so heavin, in fact that we had to tie them onto the fork lift to lower them in the oven!

They were so heavy that we had to tie them onto the fork lift to lower them in the oven!

Hank is an expert with the fork lift!

Hank is an expert with the fork lift!

The oven they gave me was about 3 feet deep, so we gently lowered the molds in.

The oven they gave me was about 3 feet deep, so we gently lowered the molds in.

Here you can see the bottoms of the 3d prints in the molds. The next step is to burn them out overnight.

Here you can see the bottoms of the 3d prints in the molds. The next step is to burn them out overnight.

There's the bottom of the  Zee figurine.

There’s the bottom of the Zee figurine.

Overnight, the oven went up to 1000 degrees, then back down. It was about 24 hours of waiting until I could open the oven, but the molds burned out very nicely.

Overnight, the oven went up to 1000 degrees, then back down. It was about 24 hours of waiting until I could open the oven, but the molds burned out very nicely.

The Pla burned out extremely cleanly. Yu can see there are some cracks in the molds as the  PLA does expand and contract some as it heats so for the future, I can print with less infill and play with some other mold material formulas to try to minimize this cracking.

The PLA burned out extremely cleanly. You can see there are some cracks in the molds as the PLA does expand and contract some as it heats. For the future, I will print with less infill and play with some other mold material formulas to try to minimize this cracking.

We lost some mold material between Zee's legs, but the mold burned out very cleanly.

We lost some mold material between Zee’s legs, but the mold burned out very cleanly.

The molds were packed with cullet- chunks of the glass they use at Wheaton. Its a Spruce Pine Soda Lime glass. It would be nice to do some castings with optical crystal, but these were just tests so I was focused on what was available and cheap.

The molds were packed with cullet- chunks of the glass they use at Wheaton. Its a Spruce Pine soda lime glass. It would be nice to do some castings with optical crystal, but these were just tests so I was focused on what was available and cheap.

The GB4 computer is the standard oven controller and has been for over 30 years in the glass and ceramic world. I would LOVE to see someone make an internet connected Arduino oven controller with a mobile phone web interface. These things are archaic! If you're an Arduino Hacker interested in exploring this, please contact me.

The GB4 computer is the standard oven controller computer and has been for over 30 years in the glass and ceramic world. I would LOVE to see someone make an internet connected Arduino oven controller with a mobile phone web interface. These things are archaic! If you’re an Arduino Hacker interested in exploring this, please contact me! I have given this much thought and would like to work on bringing glass studios into the 21st century.

Because of the mass of the molds, they have to be slowly heated and cooled. It took another 12 hours or so to bring the molds back up and begin to melt the glass.

Because of the mass of the molds, they have to be slowly heated and cooled. It took another 12 hours or so to bring the molds back up and begin to melt the glass.

We first brought the oven to about 1200F and as the glass melted down in the molds I kept dropping more in.

We first brought the oven to about 1200F and as the glass melted down in the molds I kept adding more chunks in.

One design flaw with these molds was that they were so deep. It would be more ideal if the molds were shallower and the glass did not have to flow down so far. I ended up bringing the ovens up even hotter in an attempt to get the glass to flow all the way in.

One design flaw with these molds was that they were so deep. It would be more ideal if the molds were shallower and the glass did not have to flow down so far. I ended up bringing the ovens up even hotter in an attempt to get the glass to flow all the way in.

It was freakin' hot in there!

It was freakin’ hot in there!

Finally, the glass stopped flowing and I knew the molds were full.

Finally, the glass stopped flowing and I knew the molds were full.

The kilns need to be vented to crash them down to annealing temperature as fast as possible, otherwise the glass can "scorch" and devitrify, causing it to have a more milky appearance.

The kilns need to be vented to crash them down to annealing temperature as fast as possible, otherwise the glass can “scorch” and devitrify, causing it to have a more milky appearance.

I just turned off the oven and left it open for a few minutes at a time. The goal is to let all that heat dissipate and bring it back to ~960 asap. The problem was there was so much mass in those molds.

I just turned off the oven and left it open for a few minutes at a time. The goal is to let all that heat dissipate and bring it back to ~960 asap. The problem was there was so much mass in those molds and the refractory brick holds the heat. It was a couple hours of venting before I could start the annealing cycle on the computer.

The pieces took about ten days to cool down. Annealing glass involves soaking it at particular strain temperatures, then slowly cooling it down to room temp. I left and returned in two weeks to find this.

The pieces took about ten days to cool down. Annealing glass involves soaking it at particular strain points to even out the temperature, then slowly cooling it down to room temp. I left and returned in two weeks to find this.

The molds were so heavy and by now fragile that I just dicested them right in the oven.

The molds were so heavy (and by now fragile) that I just divested them right in the oven.

Luna Park Tower.. in glass!

Luna Park Tower.. in glass!

I was slightly nervous the oven might close on me- that thing was deep!

I was slightly nervous the oven might close on me- that thing was deep!

A couple process shots of divesting Zee.

A couple process shots of divesting Zee.

The mold materiam bloke off pretty easily.

The mold material bloke off pretty easily.

revealing what's underneath...

revealing what’s underneath…

Devil Zee!

Devil Zee!

I used a diamond saw to cut off the reservoir

I used a diamond saw to cut off the reservoir

The final Zee.

The final Zee.

Luna Park tower required a lot of picking and scrubbing to get all the mold material off. I also had to be careful not to clog the sink.

Luna Park tower required a lot of picking and scrubbing to get all the mold material off. I also had to be careful not to clog the sink.

Both final castings. I have a couple parts that broke off on the Luna Park Tower that I'd like to glue back on. but overall a good first experiment.

Both final castings. I have a couple parts that broke off on the Luna Park Tower that I’d like to glue back on. but overall a good first experiment. Above you can see Mat and Julie’s legs- they proved to be to skinny for the glass to flow into.

So what did I learn?

First, the work I will make in my fellowship will be shallower castings 9-12″deep at the most. I will be making relief panels cast from 12x12x12″ 3d printed sections. I think these high relief castings will be easier to produce and yield better results. Though I like the jade-like appearance of the glass in these, I would prefer more of a translucent glass appearance for my final product. The shallower molds will be easier to cast and cool so as to avoid devitrification. I also will do some more experiments with other mold formulas. Perhaps some other mold materials will crack less as the PLA expands during burnout. Finally, I’d like to explore casting with hot billets of glass as opposed to cold chunks of cullet. Basically, hot casting ingots of molten glass from a furnace so they skin up and stop moving, but are still quite hot when they are dropped into the molds. These ingots are then dropped in the molds and will more easily be heated to flow in. This should also yield a clearer quality to the glass.

So that’s it. I hope you enjoyed. I’m looking forward to using the process to make some work during this year’s fellowship!

New Luna Park Photos By Raymond Adams

Raymond Adams (http://www.raymondadams.net/) is a photographer friend who I met out in Coney Island. He’s been shooting in the neighborhood for while now and was a Kickstarter backer of Coney Island Scan-A-Rama.  He recently came out to meet me in Coney and shot some nice portraits of me in the installation of Luna Park at the Coney Island Museum. Thanks Ray!11054745_10204541944282739_71594317_o 11034546_10204544275381015_1535181905_o 11025317_10204495361198191_1899424994_o

A Work in Progress

I posted this piece the other day but made a lot of progress on it since so I’m posting an update. Inspired By Dreamland’s Creation as we other religious art historical works, this piece is sculpted on 3D scans and will be chopped into blocks, 3D printed and cast in glass during this year’s residency at Wheaton Arts’ Creative Glass Center of America. I’m thinking the first one will be 3’x4′ in size but how cool would it be as an architectural glass wall at 8’x10’? What’s Next? The Gates of Hell!

Heaven3

Dreamland's Creation

Dreamland’s Creation

Announcing The Great Fredini as a Recipient of Creative Glass Center of America’s 2015 Artist Fellowship!

I’m pleased to announce that I have been selected as a 2015 Fellowship recipient at Wheaton Arts’ Creative Glass Center of America to pursue a body of work based on techniques I have been developing to cast glass from 3D printed positives. I plan to use the fellowship pursue works on themes of Heaven and Hell. These ideas evolved out my interest in Coney Island through Dreamland’s famed attractions of Creation and Hell Gate, but have deeper roots in art history- specifically Ghiberti’s Gate of Paradise, Rodin’s Gates of Hell and Gustav Dore’s Paradise Lost. The themes of Heaven and Hell resonate to me in today’s era of climate change and environmental collapse, so I plan on exploring digital sculpting on top of 3D scanned imagery to create sculptures that can be 3D printed and cast in glass. Below is one work in progress from this new series. I’m really excited about exploring this work and hope to have some news about it in the future!

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

The Helter Skelter

Its not just a Beatles song… the Helter Skelter was a slide ride at Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in Coney Island from about 1907-1915. Its the next part of the model I will be 3D printing to tie together the two pieces of boardwalk I have already completed. I’m starting to grapple with how much the park changed year to year and how the main court of the model will be laid out. Its also curious how many color variations existed amongst postcards that were made as the Helter Skelter is one of the most popular of all postcards of Luna Park . Theres a bit more work to do, but I can’t wait to start printing it!

Image from Shorpy

Image from Shorpy

HelterSkelter4

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HelterSkelter5

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Luna Park’s Electric Tower, 3D Printed

I began work on a newer, more detailed sculpt of Luna Park’s Electric Tower last summer, completing the digital sculpt in September, but its taken a while to get it printed and now its finally assembled. There’s some sanding and a few decorative corbels left to glue on but I hope to install it in the Coney Island Museum this Saturday!
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I recently posted an image of the parts all organized by tier:

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and here’s an animation of how they all stacked together:

Tower

Up next I plan on modeling the Helter Skelter:

Image from Shorpy

Image courtesy of Shorpy