3DC were recently approached to explore the possibility of using 3d printing processes to create a fountain display like the real-life example shown with a bronze metallic finish.
Given that this was for a one off and there were internal water pipe routings this project did favour 3d printing processes where internal supports could be removed. The only things that would need to be reviewed and explored was the surface quality (customer required high level detail) and durability, weather proofing (this will be a fixed functional display for many years outside).
After an initial meeting with the client, we elected to explore both 3d printing and resin casting with moulds, to assess the best surface finish option and to see what would give the best result and for what price.
After working through all the options, we found that we could employ multi material 3d print processes to build the display. This would make the low detail, larger item built on the Fortus 900 machine using FDM process and UV stable ASA material, the smaller high detail items built in HP MJF PA12 material at a much sharper 80-micron resolution. This saved significant time and cost versus tooled methods such as resin and bronze foundry casting. There would be added cost with surface finishing, especially with creating a bronze coating effect but the savings were still there when all aspects were factored in making the 3d printing route cost effective.
Given this was a step outside traditional process route and a large build, we proposed a 3-stage process to de-risk the proposition and offer the customer full flexibility. This gave the customer the opportunity to get more of a feel for the quality and the finishes available, as the aesthetic was a priority for the customer.
The first stage was to build some MJF samples with a reduced scale version of one of the otters in the main display to show the customer the section through the material and coating process and to evaluate the detail in the finish. Two scenic bronze finishes were provided to give the customer the choice of a full smooth bronze and a more aged, distressed bronze finish.
The bronze finish acts like normal bronze, it oxidises when out in the open, but can be polished to go back to its original shade, like real metal. Bronze powder combined with a resin-based mixture makes the surface as close to bronze as you can get without it being solid bronze.
The next two stages are a full-sized otter, then full remainder of the fountain display and animals dependent on whether the customer continues down this process path with 3DC. Look out for more updates as this project continues through the summer.
If you need to create a metallic finish on your parts, or any other type of advanced material finishing or coating we can assist you.
The 3D Consultancy is an engineering led design and manufacturing consultancy providing technical solutions utilising advanced 3D scanning, 3D printing/additive manufacturing and CAD digital processes using the latest materials and processes, with industry leading expertise in composite materials technologies.
If you have a technical challenge with very tight deadlines that require exacting specifications and an agile working approach to achieve results, then please contact us.