TWI was invited to showcase a 3D printed component at the International Digital Sculpture and Engineered Forms Exhibition in Austin, Texas. The exhibition featured original 3D-printed artworks from around the world by pioneers in the digital arts and engineered functional forms, with TWI’s contribution the only metallic piece at the exhibition.
The exhibition organisers initially invited TWI to showcase a helicopter combustion chamber casing built by laser metal deposition (LMD) because of the unique way in which the part was manufactured. However, additive manufacturing (AM) experts at TWI’s Technology Centre in South Yorkshire offered to build something more befitting an art exhibition. They decided to build a Rubin vase and attempted possibly one of the largest thin-walled net shape components built by LMD, standing nearly 400mm tall with a consistent wall thickness of 0.9mm.
Profiling the Master of Suspense
To enable the manufacture of the vase, it was necessary for TWI engineers to write a plugin to their ToolCLAD software solution that would automatically generate a 3D triangulated surface model directly from a 2D bitmap image. This enabled the selection and conversion to CAD of a famous face. ToolCLAD software was then used to map a vector toolpath with deposition parameters to guide a three-axis coaxial LMD nozzle across a moving substrate manipulated by a two-axis CNC rotary table. This technique is a novel method of LMD manufacturing.