Works of art using Plastic AM
Michael Eden started as a potter 25 years ago, although he has always had an interest in incorporating technology into his work. Whilst learning to write HTML code to design websites, Michael started to think about how this very structured, hard medium could be combined with the plastic and malleable properties of clay. As he was trying to bring these two very different worlds together, he heard about “Rapid Prototyping” as it was then called, and discovered that this technology enabled you to draw objects in 3D CAD software, and then build them using Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology, in a way that was previously impossible.
Whilst completing an MPhil at the Royal College of Art in 2006-8, Michael developed a new body of work that explored the abstract qualities of the container. Using a combination of drawing, 3D software, traditional hand skills and digital technology, his research brought together revolutionary tools and materials for the first time and the launch of his Wedgwoodn’t Tureen.
Since then everything that Michael has ever made has been 3D printed (using Additive Manufacturing technology) in Nylon material. Michael began working with 3T as he was impressed by the accuracy and quality of the finished, intricate art works along with the skills shown by the finishing team to interpret his exacting requirements.
The ability to produce ‘impossible’ objects that could not be produced in any other way led Michael to adopt 3D printing technology. He has now developed an excellent working relationship with 3T’s Projects and CAD teams, as well as the post-production finishing teams. He relies on 3T’s technicians to understand what he’s trying to achieve and uses the technology to gain the best results. The cost of plastic Additive Manufacturing is an attractive benefit for Michael, although he has recently used a test piece to produce a bronze cast via the Lost Wax method. The speed at which parts can be produced using AM is also a benefit and whilst many artists would like to explore other materials and processes, the cost and lead-times can be a limiting factor.
The Plastic AM machines at 3T allow Michael’s works of art to be built in one piece, as their largest build chamber is 700x380x580mm. The intricate and complex features of the pieces are achieved as the process selectively sinters the Nylon powder to exactly match the designer’s CAD data, resulting in an exact replica of Michael’s designs. The unsintered powder acts as a support during the build phase, and then it is carefully removed once the build is complete and the chamber is cool.
The pieces are white when they come out of the build, so they are then finished by 3T’s in-house team of finishing specialists using a number of post-processing techniques resulting in each piece matching an exact RAL colour specified by Michael, with a soft touch mineral coating.
Michael continues to push digital technology further producing more complex and larger works whilst staying true to his original intention that each piece should be a unique object. He says ” My relationship with 3T has developed and allows me the freedom to create knowing I have a production partner who can match my creativity with quality standards that ensure I’m proud to put my name to each finished piece.”
Michael Eden is represented by art dealer Adrian Sassoon. They offer his pieces for sale and feature them in exhibitions, galleries and catalogues.
IMAGES: Michael Eden, courtesy of Adrian Sassoon, London