The 3D Printing Industry Awards is our answer to the Oscars. In preparation for our annual celebration of 3D printing, we take a look at how the most famous accolade in film was made using 3D scanning and 3D printing techniques.

Polishing a bronze-cast Oscar.

Polishing a bronze-cast Oscar.

A prestigious and time-tested method of making
As of the 89th Academy Awards in February 2017, a total of 3,072 Oscars have been awarded for artistic and technical achievements in motion pictures.

The first awards were presented in 1929. Though the Oscars weathered the Second World War in plaster form, the Academy strives to keep the design and method of making an Oscar as traditional and close to the original as possible.

Since 2015, 3D printing is a key step in the process that helps to maintain this prestige, and returns to the lost-wax method of casting that has been around since the Copper Age, around 4500–3500 BC.

Steps of the lost wax casting method: from a draft wax sculpture (A), to the plaster (or ceramic) cast (B), thorugh I) to the addition of molten metal and the finished piece (J-L) Image via thesculpturepark.com

Steps of the lost wax casting method: from a draft wax sculpture (A), to the plaster (or ceramic) cast (B), thorugh I) to the addition of molten metal and the finished piece (J-L) Image via thesculpturepark.com

3D scan, print, cast and coat

Fine art metal foundry Polich Tallix, based in Rock Tavern, NY, took on production of the Oscar in 2015. On the request of the Academy, Polich Tallix designers shaped a new model of the award by merging 3D scans of the original 1929 trophy with the ‘modern’ design that has soft, subtle differences.

Evolution of the Oscar. The 1929 original (left), 'modern' Oscar (middle), and the combined update (right).

Evolution of the Oscar. The 1929 original (left), ‘modern’ Oscar (middle), and the combined update (right).

The 3D modeling is performed in ZBrush, a platform developed by privately owned software company Pixologic, and a favourite of the Maker community.

The model is then 3D printed in wax on a machine from 3D Systems.

The 3D printed wax model of an Oscar.

The 3D printed wax model of an Oscar.

A wax Oscar gets dipped in ceramic, which is fired at 1600° F to make a mold. After this, molten bronze is poured into the ceramic and left cool overnight.

The ceramic shell is broken off and the bronze Oscar polished, before it gets electroplated in gold, by specialists Epner Technology based in Brooklyn.

Divesting the ceramic casts from the bronze model.

Divesting the ceramic casts from the bronze model.

The base, that replicates the shape of a film reel, is cast in bronze separately, and coated in a black patina varnish.

The 3D Printing Industry Awards has its own trophy to present to companies and individuals in the running for each of our 20 categories. To stay in the know, you can subscribe to our newsletter, the most widely read in the 3D printing industry, here and follow our active social media channels.

Featured image shows the finished gold plated Oscars. Photo via Polich Tallix. Oscar Statuette ©A.M.P.A.S. All images featured in this article, unless stated otherwise, are courtesy of Polich Tallix, NY.

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