3D modelers of both the engineering and artistic flavors can probably agree that seeing the realization of their digital models is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. Bringing digital dreams into the physical realm is what defines our current era, and it is the challenge of constructing unprecedented objects that pushes us to dream even bigger. But sometimes, even the most observant and astute of creators can lose sight of the extraordinary craft that goes into fabrication projects that are not their own. For that reason, I believe that it is important to stay sharp by investigating the details of the objects that move us—even if those details might seem obvious or drab at first glance.
I recently became aware of an interesting English company called Bakers Patterns after scouring the internet to find the origin of a ghoulish model head featured on-stage by Iron Maiden. I’m not the biggest metal fan, but the impressive aesthetic of this particular rendition of “Eddie” (a recurring thematic character in the band’s decades-long history) caught my interest, looking as though it had come straight out of ZBrush, in the best of ways. Bakers Patterns milled the enormous high-density foam model that is the sculpt of the head itself.
In a roundabout way of ultimately arriving at the company website, I was reminded that attractive surface aesthetics on a design almost always obscure the layers and levels craftsmanship underneath. Consequently, this keeps processes like CNC foam milling from achieving the public appreciation that they deserve—the road of iconic branding often ends-early for those whose signature is covered with another’s paint. With that, I think it makes us stronger as creators and innovators to occasionally take a moment to think about the folks outside of our own industries, who make big things happen in the less-publicized realms of fabrication. It’s an easy statement to make, but I still find that it is something that few frequently do enough—and I am just as guilty as the next guy.
It was humbling to finally to find out more about the makers behind the crazy foam skull that inspired me—and I was especially impressed by Bakers Patterns and their pioneering methods in foam wrangling. At their Telford, England headquarters, the company uses five-axis CNC mills to manufacture dimension-specific models in polystyrene and polyurethane. Sure, there are a number of companies currently doing the same thing, but the sheer size and apparent quality of the stuff that these folks are putting out took me aback and made me rethink foam as a medium. The ability to coat the stuff in various resins, urethanes and silicones is a game-changer—I could totally cookup SolidWorks models of some Romanesque arches and turn my kitchen into a Monastic cloister in no time…