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3D Printing and Casting Preserve the Memory of a Tree in Bronze

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In Oslo, Norway, people with dementia live and seek treatment at Ullertunet, a nursing home that specializes in dementia care. The recently renovated facility is now the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly nursing home in the country, and in front of it stands a strange and beautiful work of art: half of a bronze tree, placed in alignment with the natural tree it was based on. The sculpture represents a part of the tree that’s now frozen in time, showing viewers what it used to look like even as it continues to grow and change.

The young tree on the Ullertunet grounds is about four meters high, as is the sculpture, which was designed and fabricated by artists Lutz-Rainer Müller and Stian Ådlandsvik, better known as L+S. They decided to reproduce only half of the tree in order to represent the fragmented memories of dementia, where one aspect of a memory may be crystal clear but the rest of it has vanished completely. From the entrance of the nursing home, the sculpture lines up perfectly with the tree, so that viewers can see how much growth has taken place since the creation of the sculpture.

The perfect reproduction of the tree was created with multiple techniques. The tree itself was 3D scanned using photogrammetry, and a 3D model was created. Using DSM Somos TetraShell technology, the artists optimized the model for casting, giving it a thin outer layer and a hollow interior supported by a tetrahedron structure. Because the model was so large, they used Materialise Build Processor to slice it into smaller portions for 3D printing.

“We had a test part and the results were really good,” said Thomas Sijen, owner of the Sijen Art Studio foundry. “By using TetraShell you can skip a few parts of your normal process because you have a product that is printed instead of having a product that you would do the traditional way by making a mold and wax model, so that saves a lot of time and money.”

The tree was 3D printed using Materialise’s Mammoth Stereolithography printers, which are capable of 3D printing parts up to two meters long. The model was post-processed and finished manually to eliminate any surface deformities, then sent to the foundry. A plaster mold was created by casting composite materials around the 3D print, then molten bronze was poured into the mold. After it cooled, the mold was broken open to reveal the bronze tree sculpture.

Müller and Ådlandsvik then installed the bronze tree in front of the real tree, which at the time was bare of leaves in the middle of the winter. Now, in summer, the tree has already changed, with full leaves extending out beyond the bare branches of the sculpture. As it continues to grow, it will resemble its current form less and less, so that viewers will be able to look at it and see both the present moment and a partial memory.

Lutz-Rainer Müller and Stian Ådlandsvik

“Materialise has always been very open, very direct and very curious about our project and that really helped us to realize it in the end,” said Müller. “For us the most important part is really to surprise ourselves, to develop something that we feel hasn’t been there yet.”

Discuss in the 3D Printed Tree forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: Materialise]

 

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