abiI took several ceramics classes in high school and college, and I loved working with clay. It’s such a forgiving medium; mistakes can be easily smoothed over, reformed, and made to vanish. It’s so changeable, as well; several of my favorite pieces started out as one thing, then turned into something else entirely as they grew, almost as if they were creating themselves. I loved how much I could do with a piece after it was fully formed, too. Texturing, carving, and cutting into a smooth, partially hardened clay surface were incredibly satisfying.

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Adam Beane [Image: Stan Winston School of Character Arts]

That’s something you don’t really get with 3D printing. It’s proven itself to be a wonderful artistic medium; we’ve seen some amazing, beautiful sculptures created with 3D printers. Most of the creative work, however, comes before the piece is printed. The design is done on a computer; you don’t get that satisfying feeling of molding something in your hands. Soon, however, 3D printing artists and traditional sculptors can have the best of both worlds. Adam Beane Industries, a studio and manufacturing facility, was founded by sculptor Adam Beane, known for his incredibly detailed, realistic figures. Early in his career, he found traditional clay materials to be limiting, so, using his background in chemistry and industrial design, he created a new material: Cx5.

“When I was working in prototype development I had to use many different materials to create a single piece,” Beane explained in a 2012 interview with the now-defunct Humans Invent publication. “There were different materials for machining, sculpting, casting and polishing. I wanted one material that could do it all, including coating large foam structures. As I advanced in my career as a professional sculptor I needed a material that I could use from start to finish, instead of having to switch materials midsculpture to get the level of detail I desired in the finished piece. The limitations of clays, waxes and plastics led me to begin experimenting with formulations for a material with the properties I could envision.”

cx5Cx5 and its softer variation Cx5s are mysterious materials that “handle like clay when warm, finish like wax, and can be as hard as plastic when cool.” The formula is a trade secret, but Beane says that it is all-natural, non-toxic and sustainably sourced. It can’t be fired like traditional clay (it’ll melt in a kiln) but it hardens on its own.

What you can do with it depends on its temperature. According to the company, 125°F is ideal for sculpting; heat it further and you can use it as paint. It doesn’t dry out or crack, so it can be reused by heating it again after it cools and hardens.

What does this have to do with 3D printing? A release date hasn’t been announced, but sometime this year Adam Beane Industries will be coming out with a Cx5 filament.dinosuarsculpt

Not much detail has been provided yet regarding printing conditions or which printers will be compatible, but it looks like it’s going to be amazing. Design and print your model like you normally would, but after it prints you can reshape it, texture it, carve it and do everything else you could do with traditional clay.

3D printing is already capable of creating unique and intricate pieces, but Cx5 will add that handcrafted element that’s missing from most printed art. (For an idea of what printing with Cx5 will look like, take a look at the video below.) Is this a material you might want to try? Discuss in the Cx5 Sculptable 3D Printing filament forum over at 3DPB.com.

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