3d Printing Ice Sculptures

[Jared Kotoff] asked an interesting question on Facebook. He asked if we had ever seen 3d printing in ice before. Though we couldn’t find anything in our archives, he managed to find a project that makes 3d printed ice sculptures. To do this, they actually print two materials inside a chamber that is -8 degrees Fahrenheit. The first material is Shortening Methyl Esther (SME) that is used as a scaffold or mold. The second material is just water, but the tip is heated to 68 degrees to keep it from freezing in the nozzle. They do two passes of water for every layer of SME, and scan with a laser and perform corrections after every five layers.

Once the print is completed, the sculpture has to be scraped clean of SME and then soaked in kerosine to remove the last of it.  There are several pictures at the linked article, but sadly no video.

18 thoughts on “3d Printing Ice Sculptures

  1. Nice. Although the article doesn’t really explain why the SME is needed. You’d guess that just carefully controlling the temperature would be enough, but I suppose water in its liquid state isn’t thick enough to stay where it’s put until it freezes.

    I suppose the SME and kerosene mean you wouldn’t want to drink out of the beer mug or martini glass though.

  2. Kerosine is not particularly toxic.

    If you drink any kerosene, you should avoid vomiting to prevent inhalation of the fumes. It is recommended that you drink two glasses of water aver ingesting kerosine, to prevent indigestion, gas, or diarrhea.

    The important thing is to avoid getting it in your lungs, not your stomach (especially the small amount left behind on these ice sculptures).

    Paraffin oil would be preferred over kerosene I think, for a less irritating residual odor.

      1. Ice sculptures are placed in a standard room temperature area at the client site. So no it probably wont evaporate at any appreciable rate during manufacture, but would in transport or at the client site.

      2. I just bothered to read the site the article links to and it seems these mugs/bowls are simply proof of concept, “This three-year study is to develop computer-assisted ice construction techniques, for example using digital fabrication to construct buildings out of ice.”

  3. Neat idea.

    But what is “shortening methyl ester”? Google doesn’t find anything but the article itself, so did they make up this term? Is it really just plain old shortening?

    I have a bottle of DMSO, which has several interesting properties; one being that it freezes at only 65°F. It would be easy to keep a room below this temperature, so I always wondered if it could be used for some kind of casting or support structure.

  4. Hello, I’m a little late to the party on this one but hey whatever. I’m a professional ice sculptor. Owner of http://www.iceicemaybe.com I would say this concept is drooled over by basically all ice sculptors accross the world. We already use CNC automation to take material away but adding water in a shape unfortunately seems to be impossible when it comes to keeping the ice clear. Practical use just doesn’t seem like something that is going to happen but I hope at some point I stand corrected. Just wanted to add my two cents! – Casey

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