Visit to Smooth On/Reynolds Advanced Materials in Macungie, PA!

My upper level Sculpture class went to the “Smooth-On” factory and showroom (Reynolds Advanced Materials) on a short filed trip.  Smooth-On is a producer of silicon and urethane rubbers and plastics for architectural to special effects; aside from many other applications.

Once you enter building (before the showroom) you are greeted by two big dragons, accompanied by sound effects, lights and smoke.  Also, the floor was cast by the employees using Smooth-On products.  LED lights were embedded floor to give a lava like appearance.

We toured the the plant (sorry no photos) and everything was extremely clean!  A lot of stainless steel holding and mixing tanks throughout the complex.  There was also an area that the employees used for making displays, catalog examples and their own work.

At the end of our tour we ended back at the showroom, exploring all the treasures of any type of castable or moldable material you could think of.  As most products had examples, the corral in the fish tank was also a Smooth-On product.

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Albright Creative Research Experience (ACRE) The Cupola

Over the Winter Interim session at Albright, I worked with a student to build a new cupola furnace for the Sculpture Yard.

At Albright there are research opportunities called ACRE (Albright Creative Research Experience).  These are collaborative endeavors between faculty and student(s).  Where faculty or student(s) can initiate a project they have in mind.  The goal is work in collaboration, not as an assistant to a faculty member.

For this project, I sought out a student with some welding background to accomplish the construction of an iron metal furnace called a “Cupola.”  Alyssa had already made a welded metal sculpture the prior semester and seemed like a good fit.

The project started from selecting the metal for a local scrap yard, cutting and shaping the main section of the furnace, then welding all of the parts that make a cupola.

The final stage is casting the big temperature refractory (liner) in the furnace so it will be ready fro use this semester.

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Cambridge-Lee: Relief Sculpture in Copper

For my first visit to Cambridge-Lee, there was interest in creating a sculpture for their lobby. Since they were remodeling it, they thought it would be a great time to have something cast from there facility out of copper; in the form of a sculpture.

The series of images show the stages of making a wood pattern meant for a sand mold to cast in copper.  Different types of wood, scrap copper,  garden hose, Bondo and wire were used to design their manufacturing process.

If you notice the image of me shaving down material, I am doing this so the pattern will release from the sand mold with ease.  Reason being, everything has to be smooth and free of undercuts or the pattern or mold may be damaged during removal of the pattern from the mold.

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To understand the design, here are the stages of making copper tube at Cambridge Lee (some steps are not included).

  1. Top right: scrap copper,    2. Top middle: copper bails,  3. Top left: metal furnace,  4) Left middle: casting trough, 5) Bottom: roll, sizing the copper tube.  In the last image shows coils of tubing around the entire process.

In short, scrap copper is collected and, compressed into manageable portions to load into the furnace.  Once the melt comes up to temperature, the molten copper flows from the furnace to a distribution station via channels in the floor, see the video below!

Now on to making a mold and pouring some copper, more to come!

Visiting Artist from GoggleWorks

Visiting artist, James Pastore from GoggleWorks gave a talk and demonstration about his work and other ceramic artists.  He also worked with my Sculpture students to glaze their work for a gas kiln firing at GoggleWorks.

This ongoing collaboration was also meant to expose students to other firing processes other than an electric kiln + the wealth of information James brought to the demonstration.

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Smooth On Demonstration (rubber mold making)

The end of fall semester we had Smooth-On back for another demonstration with a number of their products.

From making rubber molds to casting urethane plastics and foams, made for an interesting break.

During his demo, Greg spoke about being on SYFY channel’s FaceOff as contestant.

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Everyone left with a resin casting of their thumb or finger!

Welding with Found Objects: GoggleWorks

From teaching Sculpture over the years and doing the scrap yard run for class. I thought this would be great a workshop at GoggleWorks, to help identify proper metals for welding and make something from it.

This was also a two-day workshop like Welding II.  The focus was exploring the scrap yard for found objects that would be interesting to spark some ideas.

Day two, was bring your ideas and materials back to create an interesting sculpture from reclaimed metal we picked up from the prior class.

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Bronze Pour for IX Arts Conference

An international fantasy/realism group call IX Arts was in town for their annual conference and was looking to have a bronze casting demonstration.

We conducted the pour right outside of the Sculpture Studio at Albright College, with a shuttle running between the conference and campus.

A couple of weeks before the pour, I pulled a rubber mold from an Albright Lion; originally in the form of butter (food).

From that, I cast a a number of copies in wax to make a sand mold.  We cast a number of molds in either sand or ceramic shell, pouring the bronze around 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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The mold had some flashing around the castings, but that was easy enough to remove. The other casting was maybe not as glamorous as artwork.  It was a replacementI handle for my sand mixer…the original rapid prototyping!


Welding II at GoggleWorks

A second workshop added with it being a two-day event instead of a single class.  Picking up from where Welding Basics left off.  Welding II added instruction of the plasma torch for cutting out straight to intricate patterns in metal.

As this was a two day endeavor as, students had a greater amount of time to cut, shape and bend their metal before they needed to weld.

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Cambridge-Lee Visit (copper tube manufacturer)

In an effort to reach out to industry in the Reading/Eastern Pa area, I got to tour a copper tube manufacturer called Cambridge-Lee.

The tour covered a number of buildings throughout the property, but Building #2 was by far the most interesting to me.  Imagining that I was only going to see a warehouse full of copper tube with shipping and receiving  was not the case.

I was unaware that they process their own metals from the intake of scrap copper, to a 2-stage melting process with further refinement.  With building #2, it was the first stage of melting from scrap.  The two images show the melting process where scrap metal bails are fed into the furnace with tree trunks slowly advanced into the furnace to help de-oxyidize the melt.

The melt cycle blew me away as they tap the furnace for 5 hours with the remaining part of the day used to recharge the furnace and achieve proper temperature.

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