It was fantastic to meet so many of the Synapse staff, board members and participating researchers, past and present at the Alumni Network gathering in Adelaide last week. Two interesting projects were presented by the artist/scientist collaborators, making clear the potential for discovery that these kinds of collaborations make possible. Both projects demonstrated how a shared interest and curiosity each participant brought to their joint inquiry illuminated new possibilities in the field of their investigation. What was most clear to me was the common ground that artists and scientists share in creative and agile thinking and taking joy in problem-solving. The digital wave being surfed by artists and scientists alike is washing away the silo mentality that fields of enquiry can tend to forge. Rapid change is upon us, and opportunity abounds for those prepared to partner with divergent and alternative approaches to investigation.
The great truth is that scientists and artists are aimed toward similar ends, to imagine and model the forms and structures of existence from within its turbulence. Penetrations of the ineffable are surprising and, coming thick and fast from both scientific and artistic endeavour, stand as testament to the civilising of our intellect and imagination.
My own recent collaboration has been to work with Gary Savage in Lab 22 to 3D print sand moulds using the Voxeljet VX1000 sand printer. We are exploring alternative ingate systems to fill sand moulds with molten metal that is free from oxide-boundary ingress, as well as developing new shapes for cast bronze vibrating forms. These forms are designed across several 3D design software packages and sent to the Sand Printer as STL files.
The voxeljet VX1000 uses catalyst (sulphonic acid) coated silica sand grains which are continuously layered thinly (300 microns or 0.3mm) above each print-head deposit of Furan resin (like an inkjet printer), slowly building up 3D models in the sand box as each resin printed sand layer is lowered by 300 microns, and a fresh layer of sand is spread over the printable surface. The printed layers are set hard by the catalyst in the sand. When the sandbox is filled after thousands of sand layers have been deposited, the un-catalysed sand is removed to expose the catalysed furan sand moulds with very fine surface details intact.
Currently I have designed steel frames to support the 3D sand prints for casting in bronze, and these are being laser cut. I will post pictures of the sand moulds and their casting soon. The opportunity to have deep and technical discussion with the brilliant staff at Lab 22 about sound, the vibrating forms that produce it and the complexity of casting and printing such computer designed forms at the highest levels of accuracy is both satisfying and a privilege I truly appreciate. Thank you to the SYNAPSE program and the wonderful people associated with it.