Rinus Roelofs

Rinus Roelofs (1)

Rinus Roelofs calls himself a ‘digital sculptor’: he creates sculptures on a computer. Mr Roelofs has been a pioneer in this field for over 20 years. He is also a mathematician, and his creations are inspired by complex mathematical structures.

Many of Mr Roelofs’ ideas are geometrically so complex that they are a challenge to realize in practice, particularly with traditional production methods. Mr Roelofs has been an enthusiast and early adopter of 3D printing for his sculptures. However, most 3D printers are unable to produce items that are large and firm enough for outdoor public display, such as in a museum garden.

3Dealise, the industrial 3D printing and 3D engineering company, has worked for some time with Mr Roelofs to bring his ideas to life. First, 3Dealise produced 400 mm tall prototypes of two designs for Mr Roelofs, to demonstrate what is possible. Then, the challenge was accepted to produce a giant 2.3 meters tall ‘cylindrical knot’ for Mr Roelofs. The shape was described by Mr Roelofs as ‘a tube that is knotted in an unconventional way’.

Mr Roelofs unveiled the sculpture at the RapidPro trade show for a crowd of enthusiasts and press. It was the first time that Mr Roelofs saw the structure himself, and he was delighted to finally see a life-size version of his idea that was conceived so many years ago. The sculpture is 2.3 meters tall and is made of approximately 600 kg of iron.

3Dealise uses a two-step process to produce large items. First, a giant 3D printer, capable of producing prints up to the size of a phone box (build volume 1800 x 1000 x 700 mm) within 24 hours, produces a mold for metal casting. Mold prints can be stacked like Lego bricks to produce larger shapes. The use of 3D printing in this step enables ‘freedom of design’, customization and other benefits of 3D printing. Second, a metal casting is made with the 3D printed sand mold. This second step uses a traditional casting process, producing high quality material with well-known materials and well-known material quality, that can be issued with a material certificate such as Lloyds 3.1.

Sculptor Rinus Roelofs commented: “I have had the idea for this sculpture for a long time, and only in the late ‘90s the software was advanced enough to be able to design it. Since then, I have tried to realize the sculpture, which has been a challenge. First, I made a version with digitally cut layers of wood glued together. 3D printing a small version in plastic became possible a few years back. And for the first time now, it has been possible to make a life-size version in one piece, as the sculpture was intended.”

3Dealise CEO Roland Stapper commented “This new technology is important for two reasons:

First, it demonstrates that ‘freedom of design’ is available for large items, such as this 2.3-metre-tall work of art. 3D printing is often associated with relatively small parts, but the benefits are equally available for large parts. A universe of new design possibilities is unlocked for artists and designers this way.

Second, because this technology is capable of producing large metal items, it shows that structurally strong and vandal proof items can be made with 3D printing. This is essential for outdoor display of works of art.”

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