Manufacturing Example: Cybersculpture Sker

Fertigungsbeispiel: Talus-Implantat

3D-printed cybersculptures by Peter Lang

"Sker" is a Ø 7.5 x 2 meters round sculpture by painter and print artist Peter Lang, which consists of 27 individual segments. What is special about this artwork is not only its effect, which is determined by size, shape, and colorfulness, but also its production. It shows a completely new way of creating art in the digital age.

Virtual reality, 3D data modeling, bionic design, algorithm-based robot control, process development, mechanical engineering, and additive manufacturing. All of this was required to turn the artist's idea into a real object. This happened not behind closed doors on a factory floor but live, in front of an audience, in one of the world's most renowned museums of modern art: the Sprengel Museum Hannover.

In a collaboration between Peter Lang and Additive Tectonics, a subsidiary of FIT, a customized solution was developed over many months to create this work of art 100% digitally in three phases and then additively manufacture it with the help of two interacting robots in the museum's viewing hall. A world premiere for all involved.

Cybersculpture Sker

Drawing in the third dimension

An accomplished painter, Peter Lang is used to painting his works with a brush on a two-dimensional canvas. But how do you "paint" a three-dimensional sculpture that will ultimately be produced by robots? With VR goggles and two laser pointers in the virtual world. Standing in the middle of his studio, the artist drew the contour lines of "Sker" in layers at a height distance of 2 cm in digital space. Parallel to the shape, he simultaneously defined the constantly changing colors so that the work would ultimately reflect the sedimentary layers of the lava island off Iceland from which he was inspired to create this artwork.

During 8 weeks and more than 600 hours, a virtual model of the sculpture was created. All digital information provided by the artist was converted in real-time by software specially developed for this project by the IT specialists at Additive Tectonics. It was immediately visualized in the three-dimensional data model of the sculpture. This enabled the artist to see the entire work as well as each individual section at all times, on 360°.

Interface between fine art and technology

Interface between fine art and technology

Between the virtual 3D model and the real sculpture was the development process of the entire infrastructure necessary for the production of "Sker". The goal was to control and synchronize two independently acting robots in such a way that they create the artwork together. The mixing robot was responsible for all material handling, the extrusion robot for the additive manufacturing of the sculpture. But how does one robot mix colored material and another use it to build a work of art? Completely autonomously, but strictly according to the artist's specifications?

The solution for material preparation: The "color organ". Conceived by FIT engineers, it consists of 26 tubes of different heights containing uncolored and colored material. For the mixing process, the robot was programmed to remove precisely specified quantities of different material from the individual tanks at precisely specified times. By means of circular movements, it mixes the granules in such a way that at each point in time exactly the color tone is achieved that the artist intended at the respective point of the artwork. The material is fed to the extrusion robot at precisely the right time using a specially developed vacuum system.

The material used is Arboblend from Tecnaro, a granular biopolymer made from lignin. Sustainable and 100% biodegradable. The granules were dyed with Color Service colors in 24 different shades, making it possible to achieve over 20,000 colors in combination.

Cybersculpture Sker 2

The robot as a sculptor

The artwork was additively manufactured using FDM. The extruding robot applied the molten granulate as a continuous strand through an extruder nozzle at a speed of 13 cm/sec. The extruded strand should exactly match the colored contour lines of the digital rock model. The project had to face numerous challenges:

  • The standard robot arm was too short for the required radius of the circular sculpture. Therefore, FIT's CAE experts designed a 62.5 kg extension (Ø 440 x 680 mm), to the end of which the extruder was attached. Its organic shape was produced support-free from low-alloy steel in 60 hours additively with WAAM.
  • The material was too sleek for the artist. So FIT optimized parameters of material temperature, cavity pressure, and moisture so that the bioplastic gained a fibrous consistency during extrusion, giving the sculpture a wool-like, yet hard surface texture.
  • During the entire production process, no crossing points of the continuous filament were allowed so as not to jeopardize a homogeneous parallel structure of lines of the sculpture. Additive Tectonics developed a special algorithm for the extruder's approximately 200 km long path, which ensured 100% that there was not a single overlap within the plane. The build-up of "Sker" was absolutely precise.

All this was checked in an elaborate test in FIT's manufacturing plant. When it was ensured that everything functioned smoothly, the dismantling of the infrastructure and its transport to Hanover could begin, including several tons of consumables.

Die speziellen Prozess-Anforderungen

The special process requirements

The special challenge in this project was that an artwork by Peter Lang should be created live in a museum by two interacting robots in front of the visitors' eyes. FIT succeeded by developing an advanced manufacturing system. Due to the combination of digital technologies and additive manufacturing, it was possible to produce a piece of fine art completely digitally without losing any of its originality.

This unique art project was made possible because Peter Lang found in FIT a partner who contributed the following services to the project:

  • Provision of software and hardware solutions for digital painting
  • Preparation of the virtual 3D model of the sculpture for additive manufacturing
  • Development of the color organ and programming of the mixing robot
  • Development of the extruding robot (including 3D-printed arm extension) taking into account the visual requirements of the artwork
  • Programming of over 200 km of an overlap-free travel path
  • Extensive testing of the systems and production
  • Dismantling, transport, and installation of the production systems in the Sprengel Museum in Hanover
  • Supervision of the exhibition and control of the fabrication

The production of "Sker" could be witnessed over 6 weeks in the Sprengel Museum, Hanover as well as via a live stream on the internet.

Are you looking for a partner to help you realize your ambitious art project with digital technologies and 3D printing? With us, you've come to exactly the right place. Just send us your idea. Together we will find a solution to turn your idea into a real masterpiece.

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The way to your artwork

Our services



Feasibility check
We discuss your idea, implementation requirements and the budget. We develop manufacturing alternatives and create a first, rough offer for the production.
  • Recommendations for manufacturing
  • Approximate values for manufacturing costs and times
3D data model/
digital manufacturing
We calculate and simulate structures, develop algorithms for building geometries or program the workflow for your production process.
  • Digital production workflow
  • 3D data set for manufacturing
Rapid prototyping
We use additive technologies to produce test parts as prototypes in order to optimize and verify subsequent production.
  • Design/function prototypes
  • Final manufacturing costs and times
We manufacture your component according to the defined specifications and check the quality. If desired, you can be actively involved in the manufacturing process.
  • Finished artwork or individual parts ready for assembly
Installation setup
We assemble your artwork, pack it securely for transport and set it up at its destination on schedule.
  • Installed artwork
We document the creation process in pictures or videos and provide descriptive texts. If desired, we can provide active press relations.
  • Marketing content and PR for your artwork

Technical facts about Sker

FIT solution:Art Fabrication
Scope of services:Algorithm-based software programming
Hardware development
Data modeling
Production of test parts (rapid prototyping)
Installation of production equipment
Additive manufacturing of the artwork
Process monitoring and control
Project duration:6 months
Production time:6 weeks
Part dimensions:Ø 7.5 x 2 Meter
Part weight:ca. 5.5 t
Lot size:1 (resp. 27 single parts)
Material:Tecnaro Arboblend (Lignin)
Technology:Robotic FDM

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