Reduce Bronze Casting Costs by Using “Digital Direct” Casting

For 6000 years the lost wax process has reigned supreme as the only way to gain high detail castings from complex shapes- until now! Technology has become a real and viable tool for sculptors to enlarge their creations for the casting process.

Traditional Lost Wax Casting vs. Digital Direct casting

Traditional lost wax casting is a very labor-intensive process and is why fine art pieces have high price points. When a foundry can figure out efficiencies in their processes to save any amount of money, it is met with excitement from artists. Firebird Bronze Foundry is leading the art industry with Digital Direct castings, 3d scanning, CNC foam milling and 3d printing. The savings for the artist is in some cases as much as 25% from traditional “lost wax” casting on
one-of-a-kind, large-scale commissions!

Traditional process

In the past, when an artist would be commissioned to do a one-of-a-kind large sculpture, they would create an original clay design called a “maquette” A French word meaning “sketch,” Maquettes are generally intended to serve as rough models for larger designs. Architects make maquettes of their buildings, and sculptors often create maquettes in wax or clay to help them realize the final larger sculpture.

To enlarge the maquette, they used a process called “point up,” now an antiquated enlargement technique. In this method, the artist would take measurements, or points, from the maquette and multiply that by the scale of which they wanted to enlarge the work. It was a slow, labor intensive mathematical process. Mechanical devices were built with calibrated arms that would touch a spot on the maquette, and the calibrated arm would reach out to the block of stone or clay and mark the same spot to the new larger scale.

Now, we can 3D scan the artist’s maquette design, capturing every detail their hands created, and digitize it in a high-resolution file. A more recent process involves CNC milling. The process is that an artist would contract a company like Firebird 3D to have the piece enlarged by using a milling machine. The mill creates a rough armature (all to scale in foam). This method effectively replaced the old “point up” method. The foam is then carved, and then clay is added for the details by the artist. CNC milling is a wonderful option; however we have taken the process further with our Digital Direct method, which saves the labor and cost of milling for one-of-a-kind

With Digital Direct™ casting, we can save artists time by not only bypassing the mold cost, but also jumping past the CNC milling to achieve similar results in a fraction of the time. Artists no longer have to sculpt the same piece twice, or pay for a one-off mold; however, what is truly groundbreaking is that we have taken it further than just these savings. Now, not only do we save mold costs, but artists can cut out wax work completely, and go directly into the metal casting. This saves labor, money, and cuts down delivery time so artists can meet more flexible production timelines.

What is Digital Direct™? Here are the basics of our process: We take the digital file of your scanned maquette and 3D print the monument in the optimal thickness of 3/16 inch thick panels. The panels are printed with our organic, environmentally safe filament especially formulated for direct burn out. These panels are cut just like we would for a mold and wax. Then, we pre-engineer any windows that need to be cut so they are ready to go through the casting process to give the best results in bronze.

With Digital Direct™, there is no wax warpage, and the panels fit together, perfectly aligned. We gate these panels just like we would a wax panel, and a ceramic shell mold is made from which we burn out the filament and pour the bronze into the void. Before casting begins, we send you the 3D printed panels with Firebird Bronze Foundry’s specially formulated burnout clay, with which you would add your texture and sharpen up sculpted details. This gives you control of the quality of your art, and the sharpness of your details. With Digital Direct™, you can attain fingerprint level detail, exactly like traditional casting; thanks to technology, you can have the best of both worlds.