3-D Printing Steals the Show at 89th Academy Awards
The 89th Academy Awards sure did pack a lot of excitement into its three-hour-and-49-minute broadcast: “Moana” star Auli’i Cravalho’s run-in with a prop during her performance of the film’s nominated song, “How Far I’ll Go”; "Moonlight" and "Hidden Figures" star Janelle Monáe’s dress; and a death montage mix-up.
Then, of course, there’s the whole Best Picture award snafu. But while everyone’s busy assigning blame for this historical blunder, I’d like to focus on the statuettes that were eventually handed to "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins and producers Adele Romanski, Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner. In particular, how they were created. Following last year’s trend, 3-D printing technology played a big role in the process.
Here’s some background. In 1928, Los Angeles-based artist George Stanly sculpted the original Oscar statuette, which was then cast in bronze by Guido Nelli at the California Bronze Foundry. For the past 33 years, the statuettes were cast in britannia metal and gold plated, while the bases were made out of black, nickel-plated spun brass. But, in 2015, that changed when the Academy approached New York-based Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry about returning to the tradition of lost wax cast bronze.
Though the essence of the sculpture was never altered, other changes, like the subtle softening of the statuette’s features, have crept in over the years. After several lengthy conversations with the Academy, Polich Tallix scanned a classic Oscar from 1928 and a modern (2015) version. The two scans were blended, making the 2016 design a closer match to Stanley’s original model.
Via the foundry’s website:
This new design was then 3-D printed in wax. A mold of the wax print was made and used to make the modern wax version for each statuette. The waxes are each dipped in a ceramic shell slurry for 10 coats. Once the shell is cured, it is fired in an oven at 1600° F. Bronze at 1860° F is then poured into the hot ceramic shell and allowed to cool overnight. The next morning, the bronze castings are broken out of the ceramic shell and the plumbing system that guides the metal into the body of the casting is cut off. The castings are then sanded to a mirror polish finish and electroplated with 24-karat gold. The statuette’s base, also cast in bronze, is given a smooth, black finish. After the presentation, a mirror polished engraved bronze plate with each winner’s name and category is attached in the center of the base.
Daniel Plonski, 3-D artist for Polich Tallix, told 3Dprint.com that the method of 3-D printing greatly reduces time during the manufacturing process. It takes the company approximately three months to produce 50 statuettes.
Now that’s going to be tough to beat!