Embracing the future of foundry technology

The Embrace is a public artwork by Hank Willis Thomas located in the Boston Commons, the oldest public park in the US. It is inspired by a photograph depicting the embrace between Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King in 1964 after having learned that he has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

A symbolic monument

In 2017, the non-profit organization Embrace Boston launched a design competition seeking a permanent monument honoring the Kings` legacy and presence within the city. The aim was to create a symbol of equitability and inclusivity, working to inspire change and promote social justice in the city of Boston. The design for The Embrace was chosen from 126 submissions by artists and architects as it represents that love is the ultimate weapon against injustice. Afterwards, the work to actually construct the statue began.

The 3D printers employ the Binder Jetting technology. First, the digital CAD file is sliced digitally into thin layers, each one representing a cross section of the part. Then a recoater applies a 150µm thick layer of PMMA powder onto a building platform which is then selectively printed by a print head. Each representing one cross section of the previously sliced part. These process steps are repeated until the parts are fully printed. They can then be unpacked from the job box, cleaned of any powder residue and post processed. For example, by infiltrating with wax to create a smooth surface.

After the PMMA patterns were printed, they were handled exactly like conventional wax patterns as it is known from traditional investment casting. After building the ceramic shell, the PMMA was melted, leaving behind a hollow cavity in which molten metal – bronze in case of “The Embrace” – is poured. After the metal has solidified, the individual pieces were welded together and patinated. Including the scaffolding that holds everything in place, the final statue weighs 19 tons. The entire production process took two years.

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