I have always been interested in the possibility of transforming my imagination into tangible models and creating sculptures and devoting my skills to others. Together we will go step by step through the process of creating a 3D figure, from initial design work to the finished, cast object. The steps taken to create each sculpture are the same, so by doing them, you can create the 3D sculpture you want.
The first step, as in any project, is to collect materials. The ultimate goal of each project is to recreate it in 3D with the greatest similarity to the original image. However, to do it in 3D, you will need to make an effort and do a lot of modeling, it is best to search Google graphics and various websites and find as many photos of our character or object as possible to look at it from many perspectives and pages, the more pictures, the better, because we have a wider picture. Then you need to make a few sketches to sketch our image.
The next step is modelling the sculpture. There is a huge variety of 3D modelling programs. It’s best to try all of them on the market and find the one that suits you best. Regardless of which modelling program you choose, it is important to pay attention to the units in which you work. Your project will eventually be printed in 3D, so knowing exactly what size the finished object will have is really useful! You also need to make sure that your model is not too thin, because it will be susceptible to cracking during printing. 3D printers have different minimum wall thicknesses, so you need to work according to the specifications that your printer has. To help ourselves in the later stages of printing and casting, we break down our modelled object into separate “elements” and work on them separately, devoting the right amount of time and accuracy to making details. In art, check them regularly to combine them to make sure that the proportions are correct. For very detailed objects, it is a good idea to use a digital sculpting program (e.g. Zbrush) to add details. I create a basic grid in the polygon modelling program that I use and then import this model into the sculpting program. There you can split the grid (e.g. to add polygons and allow smaller details). The split mesh can be formed and carved in the same way as a piece of clay. This is a very slow process, but ultimately every element of the model is complete and ready for its further path.
Preparation of the figurine for printing and casting.
The next step is to prepare the item for printing. There are several steps involved in this process:
- First, check how many objects you need to print. 3D printing is extremely expensive, so if I can reduce the number of prints, I do it. The use of test components is useful here. By building a model from these components, I can easily identify repetitive elements. After printing one item and checking if it’s OK, you can easily print duplicates, which saves a lot of money on printing costs.
- Stage 2 involves changing the components to make them ideal for casting. You cannot have holes or gaps in your sculpture, inside or outside
- Finally, check that the parts are printed correctly. They must be very aesthetic and must not have protruding pieces of plastic or other material. Fortunately, most 3D printing software has the option of “wrap” the model that will automate this process. 3D printers also often offer this service. This makes printing usually very pleasant and easy! After preparing everything, we are ready for the final printing …
3D sculpture – Printing
3D printing involves applying a series of very thin layers of material to gradually build objects. Take any object that you have close to each other and imagine that you cut it into very thin slices with a hair thickness on your head. The 3D printer will print these slices on top of each other until the object is completely restored. If you look at images of printed objects with a larger layer thickness, you will see a gradation effect at the point where each of these layers begins. This is a fantastic technology because it only uses the required print material, which reduces waste.
Moulding and casting.
The process of forming and casting printed parts should be selected according to the printing technique, depending on the materials used. The objects can be printed in a ceramic material that is resistant to high temperatures, which allows us to “vulcanize” parts. This process involves placing the part in rubber, which is then heated to almost 200 degrees C. This temperature melts the rubber around the part, forming a mould. This form can then be used for direct casting of e.g. Silver. You can also print the object using silicone rubber, which provides unbelievably fine details, it consists in applying liquid rubber to the surface of the part and leaving it to dry there. When the rubber solidifies, support parts will be formed around it, but to obtain rigidity, the object will be cut off from the rubber. The mould is now ready to receive any material that we will use to create the finished parts. To increase the strength of the object, you can embed metal wire in thin, delicate areas. The finished product can now be painted and finished to get the final finish.
Ready to handle 3D.
Please! That’s how, in a few steps, we went through the process of creating a 3D figure from a 2D drawing to the finished sculpture. We can use these processes for every drawing/model you want to perform. Although the creation of such sculptures is quite expensive due to the software and processes used, there are several options that allow you to save on costs. There are several free modelling programs. If you want to make only a one-time sculpture, you can skip the casting part, 3D printed objects can be used as well as the finished product after casting. Alternatively, you can perform multiple sandblasting.