The term ‘3D printing’ refers to a series of computer-controlled additive manufacturing techniques, all of which involve material being joined together to create a three-dimensional object. The types of files that can be 3D printed include 3D models obtained via 3D scanning methods. One of the main advantages of 3D printing techniques over CNC milling is that it enables the re-materialisation of objects with complex geometries as well as very fine surface relief.
Factum Foundation employs a number of 3D printing techniques as part of the process of creating a piece or reproducing a work of art.
Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is the most common process, and typically most accessible, due to its low material costs and the comparatively rudimentary machines. Within Factum, the process is used to produce lower resolution maquettes, mould forms and mechanical parts such as component housings. In-house machines with build volumes of up to 500 mm3 can be used to fabricate 3D models in a single piece or to produce multiple pieces that are later joined to create a final, larger form.
We use stereolithography 3D printing (also referred to as SLA or ‘resin printing’), for example, to print complex three-dimensional objects. In SLA printing, a 3D object is built up in layers of between 25 and 100 microns through the action of a UV laser, which converts the ultraviolet-sensitive resin in the printer vat into a solid. SLA is the most common type of 3D printing at Factum, used to produce anything from small-scale maquettes fabricated in-house, to larger models that are prepared in-house and sent out for production with one of our suppliers. SLA has allowed us to print larger objects than are possible with other 3D printing technologies: through our industry partners we are able to produce parts up to 2100mm x 700mm x 800mm in a single piece whilst maintaining excellent surface resolution. This makes SLA the perfect method for highly detailed smaller models where surface texture is important.
Due to their susceptibility to degradation from UV light, SLA 3D prints, unless used for reference, are rematerialised. Objects that have to be cast in metal can be either moulded in silicone and recreated in wax, or cast directly using a burnout and centrifugal casting process.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) uses a laser to sinter – which means to solidify by means of heat – fine particles of powdered material in the areas defined by the 3D model, constructing the form layer by layer and leaving the finished object suspended in the surrounding unsintered powder. SLS is an ideal process for end-use parts such as the busts created by the Veronica 3D Scanner, where the powder surface texture effectively represents that of human skin. SLS parts are generally more stable and resistant against UV light and are therefore often used as mechanical components in both prototyping and end use applications.
Factum also closely collaborates with Canon Production Printing (previously Océ - A Canon Company), using their Elevated Printing Technology to produce 3D prints of the fine surface texture of paintings and other 2.5D objects. CPP elevated printers are similar to the flat-bed printers used to print images. However, in this case, layer upon layer of ink is deposited onto a surface to produce high-resolution three-dimensional surfaces.
All 3D prints produced by Factum Arte and Factum Foundation undergo a process of physical mediation in order to take on the material qualities of the object being reproduced – the 3D print of the Cellini Bell (see images below), for example, was painted with a ceramic glaze prior to gilding.