Metal 3D Printed “Lace” Sculptures by AddUp on Display at FRAC Auvergne


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AddUp‘s metal laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) technology is typically used for applications in the aerospace, automotive, tooling, and medical industries, though it has also been used to print parts for luxury watches. Recently, however, the industrial OEM announced an entirely different application: 3D printed metal sculptures, on display at the FRAC Auvergne as part of the Beautés Exposition, which brought together 39 artists from the FRAC Auvergne collection.

The pieces, together titled Les Armeuses (the female equivalent of armor), are extremely detailed neck collars, inspired by 19th century fashion. They were created by Agnès Geoffray, whose two-year artist residency with AddUp at the FRAC Auvergne from 2021-2023 was supported by the DRAC Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. Each of the sculptures, designed by Pascal Perun and members of the AddUp design team, will be “produced in an edition of four,” according to Frank Moreau, the CEO of AddUp.

“My artistic work questions the ambivalence of gestures and postures. My research revolves around the notion of hold, bodies under influence, constraints inflicted on bodies, oppressed bodies, from the angle of the feminine and its representations,” Geoffray explained.

“As part of the Frac Auvergne residency and AddUp partnership, I wanted to create sculptures using 3D metal printing technology. The project involves stiffening lace collar motifs dating from the 19th century, combining the beauty of these structures with the harshness of these constraining frames.”

Established as a joint venture by French companies Michelin and Fives, AddUp is based in Clermont-Ferrand, France—also where FRAC Auvergne is located—with a North American subsidiary in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company offers both laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) and directed energy deposition (DED) 3D printing technology.

“Since its creation in 2016, AddUp has been developing metal 3D printing solutions, drawing on unique know-how ranging from machine design to the production of extremely complex 3D parts,” Moreau said. “This innovative process enables new fields of application to be explored, creating high-precision objects by fusing the material used only where necessary. The aim is to produce shapes that would be impossible using traditional processes.”

The same kind of intricacy seen in AddUp’s 3D printed spinal implants and armament system components is also displayed in these delicate-looking metal sculptures, and the company’s fine metal powder and roller recoater technology ensured a high level of detail in the pieces. As Geoffray explained, the “expertise” of AddUp, which has been a major sponsor of the FRAC Auvergne for a number of years, made it possible to fabricate the artwork, “and above all to open up new perspectives on volume in my work, in the continuity of my plastic research.”

“The project echoes all the elements of clothing that have always constrained the body,” she continued. “From corsets to armor, the aim has long been to civilize the body, shaping and constraining it under the guise of finery – between protection and oppression. The notion of the erect body, the upright body, spans many eras. The civilized body, which holds and maintains itself, seeks to constantly counter the body that sags – not to give in to passions.”

I can only remember hearing about one other metal 3D printed sculpture, unless you also count a 3D printed sculpture made of gold-plated nylon. Looking at the pictures of Les Armeuses, I almost can’t believe these are actually metal 3D printed objects. These “sculptures of unsettling beauty,” as Moreau described them, resemble actual lace so much, it boggles the mind that they’re not.

“Laser-fused steel powder has patiently forged these irregular lace sculptures from 19th and 20th century models, some of which come from the collections of the Musée Crozatier in Le Puy-en-Velay. Preliminarily redesigned by jewellery designer Pascal Perun down to the finest detail, taking care to preserve the imperfections that ensure their complex beauty, they are the source of four highly delicate sculptures. Steel lace corseting the head of those who wear them, they are the seductive yet impenetrable protections of necklines, napes and throats that no charm or yoke can embrace without the consent of the woman who wears it. The armor melts into the perfect mimicry of elegant lace,” explained Jean-Charles Vergne, the Director of FRAC Auvergne.

“Les Armeuses play on the ambivalence of their name: charmers and armors, they clothe the skin with an austerity that marries control with the mastery of galvanized femininity, asserting not her power but her strength and pride. Fitted metal flowers are an interlaced hem of beauty and resistance.”

You can see Les Armeuses in the Beautés Exposition at FRAC Auvergne until November 5th, 2023.

“The relationship developed throughout the project, from the design of the laces modeled with software used by Pascal Perun in the field of fine jewelry, to the printing carried out on our machines and the post-processing phase, enabled us to create exceptional sculptures requiring cutting-edge expertise,” Moreau said.

If you want to learn more about AddUp’s LPBF 3D printing, the company is participating in Additive Manufacturing Strategies, produced by and AM Research. This industry touchstone conference will return to New York City from February 6-8, 2024.

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