Using a mould, plaster and molten process, Shapeways has developed bronze objects based on their 3D printing capabilities. Customers can choose from objects in Shapeways’ catalogue or send designs to be printed and shipped in raw or polished bronze. Both styles reflect the beauty of bronze whether it is a rose-golden hue or the matte antique look that ages with tarnish like a fine Neolithic wine, polished and raw bronze respectively. The multi-step process involves printing a 3D wax figure then covered with a mold and heated so that the wax spills out and liquid bronze can fill the form, which quickly solidifies. While both the rustic raw bronze and polished bronze tend toward jewellery, Shapeways welcomes designs following their guidelines.
With bronze, Shapeways expands the scope and brand of 3D printing defying pigeonholes and material limitations. There is no denying the broad application of plastics and organic material available to 3D printing. There are plenty of articles on this site detailing the pragmatic problem solving and creative artistic manifestations developed in 3D printing. What bronze brings to the table is yet another material available to 3D technology, another element aiding the proliferation of 3D printing.
What bronze gives 3D printing, facetiousness aside, is a connection with history. It is a material associated with an Age especially in Western Civilization and an international representation in our Olympic Games. Bronze is gorgeous in polished and raw forms, and it represents a part of our culture. Nostalgic mementos are often bronzed for perpetuity. As Shapeways ushers in bronze objects with 3D printing, it adheres new technology to an ancient material. In what could easily be the Age of Technology, one of the most significant industries holds on to bronze.