Academy_Award_trophyIt’s possible that the Oscars are the most publicly recognized symbol of glamour and success that don’t require being a member of a royal family. The red carpet, high price gowns and tailored suits, jewels, limos, and paparazzi all contribute to the atmosphere of near frenetic excess. After all, the awards are being given out for contributions to entertainment, not clearing land mines or educating the masses. If you can set aside this distasteful thought and just wrap yourself in the glow of a prize sought after by its near god-like participants, the ceremony itself still pales in comparison with the prize: the Oscar statue itself.

The spectacle will end, but the ability to call yourself, and be referred to as, “Oscar-award winning (fill in the blank)” is just about the only thing that will allow anyone already among the elite to pull rank to the final degree. The other, and more tangible, reward is the statuette itself. And this year, in an effort to combine exclusivity with a higher pedigree, the statue that is being produced will be a recreation of the 1929 original.

The President of the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, proudly announced:

“With the help of some 21st century technology, we’re able to honor the Oscar’s proud beginnings. The new statuette exemplifies impeccable craftsmanship and the enduring nature of art.”

Sine 1982, the Oscar has been produced by the Chicago firm R.S. Owens & Company, but this retro update will be fabricated by Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry, located in Rock Tavern, NY. Each statue is hand cast in bronze and then finished in 24-karat gold. In other words, this isn’t the typical plastic product that is often associated with 3D printing.3d-printing-bring-oscar-statuette-roots-88-academy-awards-3

While it is becoming more commonly known that 3D printing can work with high end materials to produce complex and beautiful objects, in this case, it’s not the finished product that is 3D printed. Instead, the technology was used to create a 3D model from which the mold is created. A 1929 statue was scanned and combined with a contemporary base and this digital creation was then used to 3D print the mold into which wax was poured to create the first round cast of the new statue. That wax production was then coated in ceramic and fired at 1,600°F at which point the wax melts and flows out of the form, in a process known as cire perdue or ‘lost wax.’

“With this project, we’ve been entrusted with continuing a great tradition,” said Dick Polich, Polich Tallix founder and CEO.  “It’s a privilege to be able to bring our art experience and technical expertise to the Oscar.”

claydiagramThat form is then used as the receptacle for molten bronze which, once cooled, is removed from the mold and polished until even Miss Hannigan would have to admit it “shines like the top of the Chrysler Building.” Afterwards, the statue itself is electroplated and the base is hand buffed, ready to be grasped by whichever tearful star should have the honor of winning it. All told, the process takes about 3 months for 50 statuettes, but nobody seems to mind the wait as we gear up for the 88th annual awards ceremony.

This year, if you can prevent your eyes from becoming blinded by all the stardom and bling, take an especially close look at Oscar himself, he looks pretty good for an old guy. Discuss in the 3D Printing & Oscar forum over at 3DPB.com.

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