Art Break: 3D Printing with Kevin Caron

Written by Jackie Dishner Category: Arts Issue: March 2017
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Phoenix-based metal art sculptor Kevin Caron first discovered 3D printing a few years ago when he was sent an “image” of his brother-in-law’s arm and hand. “I saw the detail,” Caron says, “and it was, ‘Whoa!’” He immediately envisioned prototypes for his metal art customers. Now 3D art is a key part of his repertoire, with commissioned pieces, jewelry designs and gallery showings.

“It’s a wine-consuming effort,” Caron jokes. “But it allows me to create art without always having to go to the studio.” Caron walks us through his 3D process at his home studio.

Sketch It
The process begins with a sketch. Using computer-aided design (CAD) software, the artist takes an idea and transforms it into a geometric 3D image on screen, playing around with the shape, depth and angles.
Slice It
That design file is sent to another program called KISSlicer PRO, a CAD support software program that breaks the design down into layers, or slices, for printing. The design may be hollow or solid.
Prep It
While a third piece of software determines what to print and how, Caron determines the color, style and amount of “ink” or filament he’ll need. The filament, which comes in spools, resembles the resin used in a weed whacker. It’s like plastic thread and comes in various colors. It is affixed to the extruder at the top of the machine. The largest of his three printers, Gigante, was custom-made and stands 8 feet tall. He uses the one most appropriate to the size of the project, spraying the glass base with hairspray, if necessary, to help keep the print in place and avoid collapse during printing.
Print It
The machine hums lightly as the filament, heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, is slowly pushed out of the extruder and drops down to the base, where the design prints from the bottom up, attaching each layer to another, one at a time, like a glue gun. His longest print job ran 124 hours straight. That sculpture, a modified obelisk called “Glance,” is 4 feet tall.

—  Jackie Dishner