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‘Spherical Creations’: Artist Dario Santacroce Creates Amazing 3D Printed Sandstone Sculptures

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Artist Dario Santacroce

Traditional artists are turning to using 3D printing in their work, and making some very interesting hybrid art — that is, art made using both 3D modeling and traditional hand finishing techniques. As I recently reported, 3D sculpture seems to be a hot item, especially when it comes to representing classical geometric forms. Italian artist Dario Santacroce decided to move from traditional sculpture to 3D printing for his ‘Spherical Creations’ series when he realized that his vision for perfect forms could not be accomplished through traditional means.

According to Santacroce:

“Perfect forms, said the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, do not exist in the physical world. They reside as abstract ideas, pristine and unchanging, in a place beyond heaven. The objects we perceive are mere shadows mimicking these pure forms.”
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Reuleaux Triangle

Santacroce wanted to see if it was possible with modern technology to represent a perfect spherical form as a true 3-dimensional sculpture. The curved forms of his ‘Spherical Creations’ are based on three interlocking structures that give rise to the so-called Reuleaux Triangle. There are 15 of these incredibly sculptures and they clearly illustrate how deceptively simple, yet complex geometries can be formed by the intersection of 3 spheres.
“It is the first time these works and this technique will be shown to the public, so if you are wondering – yes this is a big deal,” Santacroce told 3DPrint.com. “Especially since with this new technology I challenge Plato’s ‘theory of forms’ which states that perfect form can only exist in the realm of the mind. So I set out to make the most perfect spheres – is this possible?”

Santacroce has been sculpting for a long time, starting his first apprenticeship when he was just 16 years old. His previous works are beautiful creations carved from stone. His bold decision to break away from traditional sculptural techniques was both practical and philosophical. After considering using glass, stone and ceramics, he decided to use a special 3D printing process because he felt that it brought a deeper meaning to his work. CAD software and additive manufacturing allowed him to achieve a greater degree of precision than would have been possible by utilizing conventional striking tools or even high-speed diamond rotary blades.SANTACROCE_article_image_3

“I finally found my answer in a special form of sand,” says Santacroce, seen at right and below hand-finishing his pieces with 3D printed shaping tools. “Investment Cores are made of pure silica sand and a very small amount of binder. This material is traditionally used to create the master molds for casting objects in metal. Investment cores strike me as a lovely metaphor to use in tandem with Theory of Forms in that cores are not the final piece in and of themselves, as their sole purpose is to facilitate the production of multiples. As a signature of contemporary time, cores are formed in a high tech process in a series of minute layers. Once manufactured into the desired shape, the look and feel is the one of dark sandstone; a material that does not polish, that does not reflect the world on its surface but at the same time allows it to reflect into the world.”

After prototyping his sculptures in FDM using a MakerBot Replicator 2X, he turned to a company in Germany to make the sandstone prints, which were then shipped to his studio in France. While the first prints were true to the 3D model files he sent, they did not hold up well in the real world, as is often the case with 3D printing.

SANTACROCE_article_image_4Santacroce had to thicken his prints at the edges, so they would survive being shipped by truck from Germany. That change required him to create an additional post-processing technique to smooth these raised areas into his perfect forms. Interestingly, he had to model and print special shaping tools for the sandstone prints, combining 3D printing with hand finishing. The tools were created as negative forms of the original sculptures, thus they allowed him to precisely sand the prints to the final desired shape.

Santacroce will be showing his ‘Spherical Creations’ series at Galerie Eulenspiegel in Basel, Switzerland from April 7th to May 14th. You can see his process clearly illustrated in the short film, by Hugo Clouzeau, below:

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