laser carving foam from 3d sculpt

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Manchester73

New Member
The CNC department of the local University said their equipment was available to help me carve a 3d sculpted head in foam for a puppet.

I proceeded to find and hire someone to do this in zbrush, a process that took 6 months and $300. Only then did the University tell me that the foam I needed to used was too soft for their machines. I had specifically said soft polyfoam in my original e-mail.

Anyway, I am trying to figure out how to salvage the time and money I invested in this. I am aware that it is possible to carve foam using lasers which might eliminate the problem with the foam being too soft for a CNC machine. I've contacted two companies but have yet to receive a reply. Of course, it could be the time of year.

Any other thoughts and suggestions would be appreciated. The puppet mouth needs to move so the foam has to be flexible. Most puppets are made using urethane polyfoam with 1/2" to 3/4" thickness of the walls.
 

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Manchester73

New Member
As requested. It's a typical female head, but the front and back were separated for carving then would be glued back together as this would be easier since the inside of the head needs to be hollow to accommodate my hand. Thanks.


LHS_head.jpg
 

blue2k

Well-Known Member
As requested. It's a typical female head, but the front and back were separated for carving then would be glued back together as this would be easier since the inside of the head needs to be hollow to accommodate my hand. Thanks.

Ah, I see. Well I don't know if this is the "best method" for salvaging your time and effort, but it "should" work.

1: Ask the CNC dept to carve this head from the harder foam their machines can handle.
2: Take foam head and cover it with a very thin layer of oil based clay, or a smoothing hardener like Smooth-Ons Epsilon.
3: Cover head in silicone.
4: Make a "mother mold" around the head.
5: Remove head from silicone sleeve and reapply it inside the mother mold.
6: Slush cast the mold using a self skinning foam like Flex Foam iT 17 from Smooth-On (or something similar)

You should now have exactly what you need. I think that is how I would solve this problem. Hope this helps, or at least points you in a right direction.
 

Manchester73

New Member
Any recommendations for a company that could do that kind of work? I've spent a year trying to make a puppet using various methods without success; my skill level just isn't there. I would like to learn but I've already spent four years on this project. Depending on the cost I'm considering paying for the work to be completed just to see an end in sight.
 

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camerafx24

Active Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
What will the finished puppet be of?
After you have foam milled, you still have a butt load of finish work to do.
Sounds like you should just pay someone to sculpt it and send you the molds.
 

blue2k

Well-Known Member
Any recommendations for a company that could do that kind of work? I've spent a year trying to make a puppet using various methods without success; my skill level just isn't there. I would like to learn but I've already spent four years on this project. Depending on the cost I'm considering paying for the work to be completed just to see an end in sight.

I am sure you could get someone here on the RPF to take that commission. You would however need to supply them with this laser milled head first. It would have been cheaper, easier and faster to have had a sculptor model this for you first from clay.
 

Philly

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
A laser wont work for this unfortunately. A CNC would work fine as long as they have a 5 axis machine(you may get away with 4 axis but will have a lot of post work to do). Maybe speak to another company, it sounds like this one doesn't want the job.

Maybe ask hdtheater if he can take on the job.
 
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hdtheater

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
To carve this with a CNC out of foam it would need to be a rigid enough foam for the CNC to carve it. If it is flexible then the CNC will not make an accurate carve and the material would most likely get wrapped around the bit.

I would take the model and slice it into 1" slices and hollow out the center for your hand(unless the model already has it.) For the pieces that need to be flexible, as the previous poster said, make molds and cast out of a flexible material.

let me know if I can help.

-Eric
 

Manchester73

New Member
It would have been cheaper, easier and faster to have had a sculptor model this for you first from clay.

No, I tried that before I switched to the digital sculpt. It's not as easy as you imagine it to be.

The puppet I need to create is based on a person so I wanted a sculpted likeness. I spent time researching sculptors with experience doing this. The one guy who responded said he would only take the work if it was someone famous so that he could use the sculpt for other purposes. I only have two reference photographs and he indicated he needed more. I tried to find his e-mail to see if he quoted a price but couldn't.

If I had persisted in trying to find someone with sufficient experience then I really doubt they would agree to do a likeness sculpt for less than the $300 I paid the digital artist who agreed to do the work for less than his usual rate.

The six months I spent finding a 3D artist is due to people wanting more lucrative work than I can offer. Now that I have the digital sculpt, the first CNC place I contacted was not interested, most likely because it's a one-off piece and not worth the hassle of setting up.

If I persist in trying, I think it will be very difficult to find one with a 5-axis machine that will agree to help for what I can afford.

On the plus side, Smooth-On's Flex Foam self-skinning foam sounds like an ideal solution to my problem. Now I just need to get to the point of being able to use it.

I appreciate the advice that laser carving won't work to save me the trouble of pursuing that any further. It might explain why no companies have responded to my inquiry.

hdtheater I have sent you a message.
 
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blue2k

Well-Known Member
No, I tried that before I switched to the digital sculpt. It's not as easy as you imagine it to be.

Ah, I see. Seems you have have a rough time securing the talent needed for this build. I hope hdtheater can help, but if not, and considering this new information, perhaps the zbrush sculpt can be converted to pepakura format? You could then construct this head (and with a little smoothing, cast it using my previous method). If you need advice or help with this approach, please don't hesitate to ask. I would be more than willing to assist.
 

Leigh

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Just a thought here.... is this something that could be 3d printed, cleaned up, moulded & cast?
 

Manchester73

New Member
Seems you have have a rough time securing the talent needed for this build.

That's it in a nutshell. Part of the problem is I'm a perfectionist and want it to look a certain way but can't afford to pay an experienced puppet maker to produce a finished product. There is a company in New York called Furry Puppets that could do what I want but the minimum cost is $3000. It's worth it because their puppets are amazing but I am poor. So I spend a hundred times as long trying other methods to achieve the same result and all I get is frustration.

Also, there are so many different aspects, from carving the head to mold making and casting then painting and wigging. Finding someone to complete all these different tasks and not getting responses most of the time delays completion.

Just a thought here.... is this something that could be 3d printed, cleaned up, moulded & cast?

The University originally mentioned this as they have a 3d printer. But it would be very expensive. He estimated that the 3d printing alone would cost $2000 then everything else that would need to be completed would increase that cost.
 

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