Laser-sintered Easter egg

Paul Boughton
FourfourSixSix, a London-based international architecture practice, has been named key sponsor of the world’s biggest egg hunt, The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt, which is taking place this Easter.

The architects worked with EOS, the world leading manufacturer of laser-sintering systems, and Ogle Models, a rapid prototyping and model making specialist, to create a laser-sintered plastic egg that is highly intricate in structure, yet contemporary and sculptural.
From 21st February, the UK capital becomes home to 200 giant, uniquely crafted Easter eggs, of which the laser-sintered egg will be one. They are all destined to become highly collectible works of art and will be available to buy at auction, with proceeds going to Action for Children and Elephant Family, the UK’s biggest funder for the endangered Asian elephant. It is hoped that up to £2 million will be raised.
Members of the public will be able to hunt down the strategically placed, giant eggs, which have been exclusively designed, bejewelled and decorated by some of the world’s leading artists, architects, jewellers and designers including Mulberry, Sir Ridley Scott, Zandra Rhodes, Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc Quinn, Bruce Oldfield, The Chapman Brothers, Theo Fennell, William Curley (who has designed the world’s most expensive chocolate egg), Bompas and Parr and Polly Morgan.
The collaboration between Fourfoursixsix, EOS and Ogle Models has facilitated the design and construction of an exceptional piece that is at the forefront of three dimensional design and printing methods, again showing that additive manufacturing can deliver outstanding results that are impossible to create using any other method of manufacture.
The architectural design concept
Daniel Welham of Fourfoursixsix explains their design approach for the egg: “We decided to consciously move away from the mere development of a surface treatment to the egg. The geometry provided us with the perfect platform to begin applying a set of architectural principles to the overall form. Through this process we played with structure, light and shadow and began to develop a three dimensional architectural terrain.”
He adds: “Conceptually, the design works around a rational grid of components that have been configured to react to both light and scale across the surface of the egg. Each component incorporates an aperture within its design that can adjust to control the amount of light entering the internal space of the form.”
Within Fourfoursixsix, 3D design is an integral part of the design process. The firm was excited by the potential this project held to exploit these modern design methods.
Designing and manufacturing the egg was an opportunity to combine this technology with the latest additive manufacturing processes, in this case layer-by-layer laser-sintering, to create a highly intricate sculptural form that is both contemporary and unique. The format allowed Fourfoursixsix to apply a playful and avant-garde approach to the treatment of the piece, free from the limitations of more formal construction approaches.
Stuart Jackson, Regional Manager for the UK at EOS explains why the company did not hesitate to join this exciting project: “As a mainly engineering-driven company, we normally focus on industry applications in aerospace, medical, automotive and the like. The egg is a perfect example for laser-sintering applications to catch people’s imagination on another level. Here, as with all other cases, the design drives the manufacturing and not vice versa. Parts can be created that would not have been possible with conventional manufacturing technologies. As such, this laser-sintered egg is a perfect example for the vast possibilities the technology can offer.”
Laser-sintering is an additive layer manufacturing technology and differs significantly from conventional manufacturing methods due to the principle
used. Digital three-dimensional data must be available for the objects in order to use this technology to manufacture products.
Three-dimensional models of products are generated on a computer using CAD software. This 3D CAD model is sliced into thin layers during production. Based on this model, the desired geometry is manufactured layer by layer with the aid of laser-sintering technology.
First, a thin powder layer of plastic, metal or molding sand is applied. A focused laser beam solidifies the powder according to the digital cross-section of the model. Once a layer is completed, the platform is lowered by several tenths of a millimetre and the process starts again. The non-fused material is removed during the last step. In this way, it is possible to produce highly complex parts, like the egg, without any downstream work cycles or use of additional tools. Moreover, several different parts can be manufactured in a single build.
Daniel and Stuart agree when saying: “We wanted to test people’s perceptions on what can be created using these modern methods and hope people look at the piece and question how it was designed and made. Whilst laser-sintering within architectural circles is not uncommon, within a more public environment it is still a relatively unknown technology. We felt the project provided a real opportunity to reach out to a wider audience and showcase what can be achieved.”
Daniel concludes: “Our egg aims to show the potential of 3D design and production methods. The intention was to develop a design that could not
-be created any other way. We have used our ability to work with these tools to develop an intricate, delicate and complex piece that intrinsically connects back to the spirit of the Faberge brand, which focuses on highly accomplished design and craftsmanship alongside the use of exquisite materials. In some ways, our design brings this concept into the modern era on a larger scale; a piece of 21st century digital opulence.”
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