The additive manufacturing as an artistic tool

The 3.3 meter tall statue is created using innovative 3D printing technology from voxeljet. His work defined Rome as the center of ecclesial structures in Europe and laid the foundations of the Christian West.

His name was Wynfreth, one of the most prominent Christian missionaries. However, he is better known by the name of Boniface. His activities as a missionary in Germany, also led to him being called the “apostle of the Germans”.

The town of Freising has a deep affiliation with the holy Boniface, because it was him who officially founded the diocese of Freising in 739. The town of Freising therefore decided to dedicate a statue to him and called for an art competition. The task was to design a contemporary and fresh interpretation of the figurine of Holy Boniface. The statue was to be placed on Korbinian’s bridge in Freising. After extensive examination of the received proposals the adjudicators were won over by the German artist and bronze sculptor Bruno Wank. The statue impresses with its spectacular and bold corporeal vividness and convinces with its high level of modernity. However, there was something special hidden behind the statue. It was partly manufactured using one of the most innovative technologies of the modern age: Binder Jetting 3D printing.

Innovation vs. tradition

Artist Bruno Wank can draw on a wealth of experience in the field of bronze casting. Moreover, he has been increasingly involving himself in the technology of 3D printing. He chose voxeljet AG from Friedberg as the supplier of the molds he needed for his bronze sculpture. That company is one of the leading producers of industrial 3D printer and specialists for Powder Binder Jetting of sand and plastic powders. Wank made a conscious decision to resort to 3D printing. This technology simplifies and speeds up the work process considerably. Furthermore, new possibilities arise in terms of shaping and precise detailing.

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The statue was designed with Computer Aided Design (CAD), and then printed on a VX4000 printing system from voxeljet with a build size of 4,000 x 2,000 x 1,000 mm. To produce the molds, a recoater first applies a 300 µm layer of sand to the building platform. An industrial printhead then selectively applies the binder according to the CAD blueprints and bonds the sand where the component is to be produced. The print head then rises by one layer thickness and a new layer of sand is spread and the print head applies the binder. This process is repeated and thus, layer by layer, the mold takes shape.

It was envisaged that the project would take a total of seven months to complete. Thanks to the quick and effective use of 3D printing technology by voxeljet, Wank was able to have the statue completed in no more than 9 weeks. The greatest challenge – according to Wank – was to apply and adapt sand casting technology on such a scale. “3D printing offers artistic casting more extensive technical possibilities and therefore additional new opportunities in terms of interpreting and shaping sculptures. The availability and use of sand 3D printing technology opens new doors and opportunities for us as artists. It provides a tool for sizes, which were previously impossible to achieve.” The statue has faced its audience in its modern guise on Korbinian’s bridge in Freising since 2017 and Boniface presents himself as a divine man of our time.

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