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Custom Glass Castings from Digital Designs

This post is a follow up to a previous one about techniques that I have been exploring to transfer digital designs into cast glass objects. This began last year at a fellowship at  Wheaton Arts’ Creative Glass Center of America and was expanded upon this year while teaching at Pilchuck Glass School and in a workshop at Detroit’s College of Creative Studies. In particular, I have  focused on one particular technique; using a low cost desktop CNC machine to carve reusable graphite molds for glass casting multiples. There’s a few design limitations to this approach, but it is an amazingly cost effective approach to creating small to medium scale runs of custom designed glass tiles. The molds hold up for hundreds of castings, and possibly even more, so this is an exciting way of creating custom glass design objects and custom tiles for architectural applications. This will be a big focus for much of my work in 2017.

With a clean and simple design, these new geometric tiles channel the 1980’s era video game Qbert, Islamic mosaics, and leverage the material’s clarity and sparkle. I love the simplicity and the illusory way we see through the smooth top surface to see the relief texture on the backside. I am thinking this will become a set of tabletop design objects, with 6″,9″ and 11″ sizes that interlock. However, I am almost more excited to think of them as architectural tile. How cool would it be to have a wall made of these, or have them as accents embedded in concrete?

Below you will see some of this new carved graphite mold work, as well as some student work from teaching at Pilchuck this summer.  Design constraints of this method center around the fact that this process does not support forms with undercuts. Likewise, the machine can only mill material up to ~2.5″ thick and can only do straight plunge cuts as long as the longest router bit you can find. For most 1/8″ bits this means you cannot do any straight cuts more than 1.5″ deep. However, because graphite is a lubricant and it pretty impervious to heat, once the moisture leaves the material after the first few casts, these molds can be used over and over again, with beautiful results. For any schools or glass studios who are looking to create such a setup, I have created a bill of materials for creating such a setup, totalling under $2500. (BTW, I am available to teach workshops! )

The top of the casting is flat, perfectly magnifying the relief texture of the underside.

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CNC milling the graphite mold

Completed rough pass on CNC, ready for finishing pass

Ladling molten glass into the finished mold

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The tile on the left is upside down, showing the relief on the backside. The relief side is as nice as the front and they would make a beautiful glass brick wall.

I’ll end with some images from the TaDDDaa!!! class at The Pilchuck Glass School this summer. It was a three week deep dive into 3D modeling, scanning, printing and CNC carving. Here’s some of the class’ work with graphite for glassmaking:

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This was my first test with this technique at Wheaton Arts and the process used by students for the class at Pilchuck. Here we see rough and smooth CNC carving of the graphite mold, hot glass in the mold, and final product at room temperature.

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The TaDDDaa!!! class at Pilchuck was a three week deep dive into 3D modeling, scanning, printing and CNC carving.

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My TA Christian with Phirak and Rebecca, who will be teaching a 3D printing clay class at Pilchuck next summer

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Rebecca’s mold based on a victorian pattern

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Jameszie made a Ouija planchette

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Brent supervising his first carve

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John, Lee, Phirak and Nikki trying out their molds

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My student John was a master mold maker so he undertook making a two part blow mold and spent quite some time finishing the graphite to a polish

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Blowing glass into the mold

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Michael’s two part blow mold

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A pile of hot casting molds cooling down at the end of the class casting session

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A fishscale tile design I was playing with

CNC Carving Glitch Art

Greetings from the woods of Stanwood Washington where I am teaching in the remote paradise known as the Pilchuck Glass School. Session 2’s theme is Play and our class has been playing with methods of creating glass castings from digitally generated sculptures. 

As part of the class we are CNC carving graphite molds so I brought a bunch of graphite that I bought on eBay. I had previously carved blocks that I had bought from this guy with no problems so I was bamboozled when I started to have carving issues with my molds here. I spent the better part of the last two days wrestling with the XCarve, thinking the axis slipping was mechanical. Then I realized the carbide bit was totally shot and realized the problem. The CNC is finally back to carving the other/ softer graphite like it was butter. I finally carved this mold I’ve been trying to make, but only did the rough pass. I think I like the terraced stepping… What do you think!? 

In the meantime, please enjoy my latest work with graphite glitches….







Doctor Who’s Boneless Inspired By Fredini’s Zombie Army of 3D Print Fails!

This article How 3D printing glitches inspired these Doctor Who effects was recently brought to my attention. The article (and several others like it on the web) talks about how 3D printing “glitches” like my Zombie Army  print fails were the inspiration for the BBC show’s villains, the “Boneless”. To my great surprise and delight, the example 3D print fail being cited as influential on the Boneless was one of my earliest self portraits! As a Doctor Who Fan going all the way back to middle school, its quite an honor to have been of service to the Doctor.

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“Boneless” was the name the Doctor gave to creatures from a two-dimensional universe. They were able to reduce both lifeforms and other three-dimensional objects to two-dimensional. After taking on three-dimensional forms themselves, they were also able to restore objects back from two-dimensional to three-dimensional.

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This 3D Printed self portrait (I call it “Max Fredroom”) was one of my earliest print failures on my original Printrbot printer, and has been cited as influential on the visual style of Doctor Who’s Boneless.

Come Learn 3D Modeling, Scanning, Printing & Glass Casting with me at Pilchuck in June!

There’s only a few weeks until my class TaDDDaa!, which covers a range of digital processes for glass casting at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood Washington and there’s still a couple slots available! Session 2 runs May 30-June 17. The course will combine a 3D modeling, scanning and 3D printing/CNC routing track with a physical track for glass casting with lost PLA kiln casting and hot casting into CNC carved graphite molds.

Apply today and join me in the woods for the time of your life!

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This sequence shows the progression of a 3D scan being manipulated digitally, the 3D printed sculpture, and its final incarnation as a cast glass object.

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This sequence shows a CNC routed mold that can be used for hot glass casting.

Putting the NefertitiHack Scan-Dal to Bed

This article is an apology to Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles’. I hope my questioning of your methods doesn’t land you in hot water. Last week, my post There’s Something Fishy About the Other Nerfertiti really blew the lid off a debate that has recently had a lot of chatter in online 3D scanning, printing and art circles. My post debunked the possibility that your art project The Other Nefertiti was scanned using an Xbox Kinect sensor. Immediately after my posting, the internet seemingly exploded with commentary about how the “Nefertitihack” had to be a hoax. At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters whether you scanned the artifact with a Kinect or procured a file from other sources because what you have created is a wonderful dialogue about the provenance of antiquities, ownership, copying and a strong argument for openness and sharing of data. What’s great is that this priceless antiquity is now within reach of anyone who cares to experience it and people are interacting with Nefertiti in unique and personal ways they never have been able to before.

The repercussions of my post began with Hacker News picking up on my post, which produced a ton of traffic and some great comments. The Nefertiti Hack: Digital Repatriation or Theft? was the first press I’m aware of that began to seriously consider that things with the story didn’t add up. Hyperallergic’s Claire Voon then produced some of the most insightful commentary Could the Nefertiti Scan Be a Hoax — and Does that Matter?, and it all culminated with the Times’ Charly Wilder’s follow up  Nefertiti 3-D Scanning Project in Germany Raises Doubts (She was aghast that none of the three experts she had spoken to for her original article had picked up on the possibility that the data was too good for their capture method).

So we may never know the truth about the true origin of the file. I tend to think that it is somehow derived from an official museum scan, which was somehow copied in the creation of their 3D printed edition). However, the real conclusion I’ve come to is that it doesn’t matter. What matters is something the internet has taught us all along. From Wikileaks to Nefertiti, information wants to be free. Already, a quick google search will turn up a range of Nefertiti derivative works ranging from interactive art to Lego Minifig  and Pez heads, voronoi (swiss cheese) versions, Nefertiti vases and many more. What will be done in the future with her data, only time will tell.

Some Nefertiti inspired works that are already making the rounds. The best is yet to come.


Perhaps the best argument for museums being open with their data is the talk below that was just posted by Cosmo Wenman. Cosmo is an artist who has been active in scanning antiquities from museum collections for several years now. He has scanned a number of famous objects and casts made from objects, including the Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace. The talk likens these 3D scans to the 19th century tradition of making plaster casts from classical sculptures and makes a strong case by showing several examples of how people have used the data he shared. This is a position that has been shared by many museums, including the Media Lab of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in NYC, and I sincerely hope this trend will continue. The promise of the internet is that all of man’s knowledge will be at our fingertips. The Neues Museum would be wise to take note.

There’s Something Fishy About The Other Nefertiti

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 11.08.30 PMThe New York Times and countless other news outlets picked up on a story that’s been making the rounds of the 3D printing community the last few weeks; Swiping a Priceless Antiquity … With a Scanner and a 3-D Printer tells the story of two artists; Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, who apparently succeeded in making a massive digital art heist when they surreptitiously scanned Nefertiti’s bust in Berlin’s Neues Museum. It’s great art commentary with many levels; It talks to issues around digital copy vs. originals, who is allowed to own these copies, and going deeper, questions the museum’s right to own the statue which rightfully should belong to Egypt. By releasing the files for The Other Nefertiti free online as a torrent, the artists have initiated a huge debate with many layers. The 3D Printing community is not without its debate about this work either. The video the artists share that shows them sneaking a kinect scan from beneath Ms. Badri’s scarf raises a lot of questions as to whether the artists even scanned the artifact as they claim.

The video shows the two using a Kinect Xbox controller to capture Nefertiti, and while I have no doubt the artists may have done the Kinect stunt, there is simply no way the scan being distributed was made with a Kinect. Simply put, the scan being distributed which is made of more than 2 million triangles is far too detailed to have been made with that hardware. Even if the device was “hacked” as news reports state, this quality is not achievable with this method. Problems in the story include how the unit was powered (Kinect requires a wall outlet), but even if they carried some kind of battery, Nefertiti is under glass which also causes errors in this method of scanning. Other questions include where was the connected laptop hidden? Then, the video shows Ms. Badri repeatedly covering and recovering the Kinect as she circles Nefertiti. A normal scan would require uninterrupted line of sight of the statue as the scan is happening. In order to get coverage of the top of the headdress, the scanner would have to be held high above the statue, and not at waist level as the video indicates. Maybe multiple scans might have been made from various vantage points and meshed together later, but truthfully the scan is way too high fidelity for the way the Kinect works. The device sprays a grid of points of infrared light over the subject and each point is measured as a distance measurement while the computer software does the math to turn that into a 3D model. Its a fast way to generate a 3d model, but with accuracy that is at best only within a few millimeters.

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I have made over 10,000 Kinect scans. Here we see what is typical of a “good” quality Kinect image capture. Tolerances with this type of scanning are at best within a few millimeters of accuracy. Nowhere near the Sub-millimeter quality of Nefertiti’s scan.

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Nefertiti’s scan is much more accurate that what is possible with a Kinect

So if it wasn’t made with a Kinect, How was this scan created, and why lie about it? When confronted about how the scan was made on the 3D in Review Podcast, Mr. Nelles is vague in his answers and claimed that he and Ms. Badri knew nothing about the device and that some hacker types had set up the hardware for them. The “hackers” then took the data and created the model for them. When asked about the hacker’s technique, Mr. Nelles stated that the hackers had left for New Zealand and were unable to be contacted.

One theory is that the scan is actually generated by Photogrammetry, a technique of capturing images of the sculpture from a variety of angles. The images are then fed into software such as Agisoft Photoscan that analyzes all the images for common points, and generates a 3D model of the subject. Paul Docherty is a researcher who has extensively used photogrammetry to reconstruct historic artifacts and sites, including a model of Nefertiti’s bust using available imagery he gathered online. He catalogued the process in his article 3D Modelling the Bust of Queen Nefertiti, and also spoke on the 3D in Review podcast about his efforts. Mr. Docherty has since gone on to question the Nefertiti Hack scan in his article Nefertiti Hack – Questions regarding the 3D scan of the bust of Nefertiti, in which he agrees that there is no way this scan was captured with a Kinect. So, its possible that the scan could have been made using a series of 45-120 high res images covertly gathered with a cellphone, but if that’s the way it was done, why show the Kinect in the video?

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The last possibility and reigning theory is that Ms. Badri and Mr. Nelles elusive hacker partners are literally real hackers who stole a copy of the high resolution scan from the Museum’s servers. A high resolution scan must exist as a high res 3D printed replica is already available for sale online. Museum officials have dismissed the Other Nefertiti model as “of minor quality”, but that’s not what we are seeing in this highly detailed scan. Perhaps the file was obtained from someone involved in printing the reproduction, or it was a scan made of the reproduction? Indeed, the common belief in online 3D Printing community chatter is that the Kinect “story” is a fabrication to hide the fact that the model was actually stolen data from a commercial high quality scan. If the artists were behind a server hack, the legal ramifications for them are much more serious than scanning the object, which has few, if any legal precedents.

What do you think? Will we ever know? Nefertiti’s data liberation has certainly sparked some controversy and I look forward to seeing what the community creates from it, as well as what truths come out as the story unfolds!

 

Dear Friends of The Great Fredini

Coney Island has been an important place in shaping my identity as an artist, primarily through my involvement with the nonprofit arts organization Coney Island USA. For over 35 years, CIUSA has provided a staging grounds for a huge range of artists, performers, actors, playwrights, musicians, filmmakers and practitioners of just about any other artistic discipline you can think of, entertaining NYC’s diverse audiences and preserving aspects of uniquely American popular culture, such as the iconic Mermaid Parade. CIUSA has done remarkably well in helping to shape the neighborhood’s revitalization, but the organization is still financially reeling in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy and needs YOUR help! This March 19th, I am being honored at Coney Island USA’s Spring Gala, so I am forwarding an appeal from longtime board member and friend Mark Alhadeff. Please consider taking out a journal ad or buying a ticket to what may be CIUSA’s most important fundraiser ever. Coney Island USA needs your support so that it can continue making America’s playground a special place for generations to come!

-Fred

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Dear Friend of The Great Fredini:

I can say with confidence that every recipient of this note will know what a special person Fred Kahl is. But, just in case you forgot, let me remind you: He is a man of vision, intelligence, and good taste. And most importantly, he is a person with a giant heart.

Further, if you’re as lucky as me and have known Fred for decades, you will also know that Fred has always listened to the advice of Joseph Campbell and “followed his bliss.” This has led him on many incredible journeys, and the ultimate destination of most of those trips has been Coney Island. More specifically Coney Island USA (Coney’s resident not-for-profit arts group) has been blessed by the presence of Fred’s energy and creativity since the 1980’s. From neon sword swal- lowing to a 3D Luna Park, from acting on our stage to serving on our Board, from a spiral wishing well to an awesome electric chair — Fred is part of the very fabric of Coney Island USA.

Now that a few strands of silver have appeared in Fred’s luscious locks we here at CIUSA have decided it is time to honor the Great Fredini. Fred has been named “Man of the Year” and will be celebrated at our Spring Gala on Saturday, March 19th. The Gala is without fail the must-attend event of the Coney Island social calendar and dedicating it to Fred was a no-brainer.

I am writing on behalf of everyone at CIUSA to invite you to join in this celebration of Fred’s life and achievements. There are two easy (and not mutually exclusive) ways to get involved:

  1. Attend the Gala in Coney Island on March 19th. Tickets are available now (and a great bar- gain). Show your love to Fred in person! You can learn more by visiting: http://www.coneyisland.com/gala
  2. Let Fred know how much you care about him by putting a customized notice in the commem- orative Journal. The Journal is distributed to all Gala attendees and becomes a keepsake. Get your message about Fred in there: http://www.coneyisland.com/gala-journal

I do hope to see you at the Gala, to read your message in the Journal and to share your joy in the year of the Fred.

Sincerely,

Mark Alhadeff

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Friend of Fred
Coney Island USA Board Member