Unique and larger than live sculpting with 3D printed PMMA patterns

The Stations of the Cross, located at Cloisters on the Platte, a Jesuit retreat center in Gretna, Nebraska, are one of the most profound and largest sculptural representations of the 14 stations representing Christ’s trial through his burial. A total of 58 figures, with the tallest figures reaching 7` in height, are positioned along a 2.500-foot-long path, which is the same distance Jesus Christ is believed to have carried his cross from Jerusalem to Golgotha, the site of his crucifixion.

The Cloisters on the Platte was founded by Joe Ricketts, who recruited a group of the US` internationally-acclaimed figurative sculptors to create the larger-than-life cast bronze sculptures for the Stations of the Cross. Today, each of the 14 stations represent a specific moment in Jesus Christ`s final journey, chronicling condemnation, torture, crucifixion and death.

Saving time and cost with additive manufacturing

However, the sculptors opted for an unconventional way of manufacturing the Stations of the Cross. Traditionally, sculptures would be crafted via full scale clay models, serving as patterns for mold making – an expensive and time-consuming process. It soon became clear that additive manufacturing was the most viable solution for manufacturing the 14 stations, as it is substantially more time-efficient, while also providing a high level of detail and freedom of scalability. Recognizing this potential, 3D printing proved to be the perfect choice. The initial models were traditionally sculpted from clay before being digitally scanned and scaled up to 125% life-size. These models were then sectioned and 3D printed using a VX1000 PMMA 3D printer from voxeljet. Each station was divided into several single patterns and then gradually brought to life layer by layer.

Introducing a new era in sculpture

The entire process of creating the Stations of the Cross took three years. Thanks to 3D printing, the manufacturing process could be accelerated without having to sacrifice a single bit of richness in detail. Digital processing allowed for flexible scaling, resulting in statues ranging up to 7 feet high, each characterized by an incredibly high level of detail. Although art and traditional manufacturing methods will always be closely interwoven, modern technology is increasingly being used by artist. Digital design and 3D printing in particular are opening up new ways of creating and freedom of design.

A larger-than-life testimony to 3D printing

Today, visitors can walk through a 2,500-foot-long path along which the life-size statues telling the story of Jesus’ journey to death are placed. With its dimensions, it is the largest and most significant Stations of the Cross ever created, highlighting the potential of 3D printing in the production of high-quality, large-scale castings. Furthermore, this project demonstrates how flexibly 3D printing can be integrated into existing production processes, marking the beginning of a new era in sculpture.

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