With the advances related to digital technology, machining has made extraordinary progress in recent years, benefitting various industries such as architecture, design, and the arts. But what are the advances in machining that find applications in modern design sculpture?

5-axis machining

From the 3-axis machining technique, which is already very precise, comes 5-axis machining.

3-axis machining removes the material shavings using traditional machine tools, such as the milling machine, and is well suited to shallow pieces. However, it quickly reaches its limits when it comes to machining deep pieces with narrow cavities, and doesn’t provide meticulous finishes in these cases.

The 5-axis machining technique, for its part, offers many possibilities in terms of the sizes and shapes of the workpieces. The machining tool doesn’t operate in 3 directions, but in 5 directions: it moves along 3 linear axes (X, Y, and Z) and turns around two other axes (A and B). Thanks to this technology, the workpiece is approached in all possible directions, which lets you work on all five sides. Furthermore, 5-axis machining lets you machine deep or massive parts and pieces made of hard materials with a high level of precision, a faster machining speed, better yields, and less tool vibration.

With 5-axis machining, it’s possible to process more material, program, and partially or fully automate the process thanks to computer-aided manufacturing. The preparation time is longer than that required by 3-axis machining, but in return, there’s less material handling.

5-axis machining also lets you make wood carvings, machine a polystyrene sculpture after scanning a model, and create many modern sculptures.

Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is a process for manufacturing a physical object from a 3D file. This technique involves successively stacking layers of material such as plastic, resin, paper, metal, and many other materials in different forms, powder, wire, or liquid. Some sculptures are even made of chocolate!

This process begins by producing a 3D file using computer-aided design (CAD) or 3D modelling software. The file contains all the information regarding the places where the material must be added and sends it to the printer.

Additive manufacturing is particularly well suited to the creation of prototypes and works of art, since each copy produced costs the same price. Thanks to 3D printing, the objects produced are unique, industrial, and can be made from various materials without investing in tooling.

The advances in machining undeniably benefit modern sculpture. You can see this immediately by visiting exhibitions such as “Printing the World” at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris or the Art Basel exhibition in Miami. There, you’ll find an impressive number of sculptures created using new machining technologies. These techniques make it possible to push the boundaries even further, since we discover works of all sizes here, from the microstructure to the cave, and made of materials each more diverse than the last.