Making a Giant Company Mascot Sculpture
How we made a 12 foot tall Giant Foam Mascot Sculpture for Trade Shows
Table of Contents
Giant Foam Company Mascot Sculpture
This case study focuses on the process of creating a giant 12 foot tall 3D company mascot sculpture, an Orca whale named ‘Orkie’ for Orca Security. The company, which specializes in cloud data protection, wanted a visually striking and attention-grabbing display that would help them make a splash in a crowded trade show environment. The decision was made to create a life-size Orca statue, based on a plush toy, that would be both impressive and memorable. One that would also be used for photos at multiple upcoming events. With creativity and technical skill, the WhiteClouds team dove headfirst into the project, determined to make a mascot that would turn heads and leave a lasting impression.
The statue had to be designed, sculpted, and constructed in a way that would make it both durable and lightweight enough to transport and set up at multiple trade shows. It also needed to support people sitting on the base pedestals for photos. The team needed to work within a tight deadline and budget to ensure that the final product was ready in time for the trade show.
How it Started
emc3 is the creative marketing agency behind the commission for the giant company mascot sculpture. Although WhiteClouds has the capability to create any 3D digital model from scratch based on a physical model, a 2D illustration, or just an idea, in this case, the Orca mascot had already been digitally created in a 3D model by emc3. They supplied us with the 3D file which cut out significant design time. Having a 3D digital model also ensures perfect accuracy when it’s replicated in any size. However, sometimes digital designs don’t necessarily mean they they work with the laws of gravity in the real world as a physical model. The WhiteClouds designers made subtle modifications to the base in order to make it sturdy enough without toppling over.
Before going straight to building the 12 foot tall display, the customer wanted to see a physical replica of it as a miniature. This extra step can be a huge problem-avoider on large jobs because we can ensure the paint colors, textures, dimensions and overall vision are approved and on-point with 100% confidence before we waste materials and time on the large model.
To create the physical maquette, we 3D printed 8″ tall figures out of PLA plastic in one piece from the modified digital model. After sanding the finished print, it was primed and painted with pre-selected Pantone colors.
Why EPS Foam was Chosen for the Sculpture Material
Once the miniature maquette was approved, The final 12 foot tall company mascot sculpture preparation began. Although we have made a number of giant 3D-printed sculptures, including a 30 foot tall outdoor sculpture, for this job, we chose EPS foam as the material we would use.
EPS foam, also known as expanded polystyrene, is a versatile material that can be used for a wide range of creative projects. One of the main benefits of using EPS foam for sculpture is its lightweight nature. This makes it easy to handle and work with, especially for larger sculptures that may be difficult to move or transport if made from heavier materials like stone or metal. Additionally, the lightweight nature of EPS foam makes it a cost-effective option for creating large sculptures. It is also ideal for moving and setting up at conventions and transporting to and from different events as long as a durable coating is used in the final steps before painting.
EPS foam is also easy to shape, allowing for greater flexibility and creativity in the design process. With a hot wire foam cutter, it is possible to cut and shape EPS foam into virtually any shape or form. This means that artists can experiment with different shapes and designs without being limited by the physical constraints of other materials.
Despite its lightweight nature, EPS foam is surprisingly durable. It can withstand exposure to the elements and is resistant to moisture and rot. This makes it a great option for outdoor sculptures that need to withstand the elements. Additionally, EPS foam sculptures can be coated with a protective layer called a ‘hardcoat’ to further enhance their durability. More about that later.
Lastly, foam carving can be quicker than 3D printing something of this scale and with our tight deadline, it was the optimal choice for this project.
How to go from a 3D Digital Model to a Physical Foam Sculpture
Next, we needed to figure out how to quickly get what was on a digital screen, to an actual physical 12′ tall statue in perfect scale, proportion and detail. To save time and labor from manually carving an entire block of foam from scratch, a combination of machine cutting and manual shaping is most often used. Using a machine also helps in the precision and accuracy in the overall shape. Our production designers proceeded to take the 3D digital model made up of thousands of polygons, and ‘sliced it up’ into as many pieces of ‘virtual foam’ that we would need.
Cutting EPS foam with a CNC hotwire machine involves using a heated wire to melt and cut the foam into the desired shape. The foam is secured onto the machine’s work surface and the CNC software is used to create a 2D or 3D model of the desired shape. The hotwire is then programmed to follow the model’s path, cutting the foam into the desired shape with precision and accuracy. The process is quick and efficient, allowing for the creation of intricate shapes and designs with ease.
Once all the rough shapes were machine cut, our production team worked feverishly to, glue, carve, sculpt, sand, and smooth the foam to its final shape in preparation for a coat of smoothing plaster. Once the plaster is applied and allowed to dry, it needs to be sanded to a smooth finish.
In order to withstand the harsh treatments in transporting a large model around the country from event to event, and to make the surface structurally sound, we hard-coated the entire piece in Polyurea ULXT66. We use this hardcoat for most of our foam projects, especially outdoor applications and for most of our metal letters and statues. Polyurea is typically applied by ‘spraying’ the finish onto a structure. Among the many benefits are its highly flexible and water-resistant properties, as well as an incredibly quick setting time. Polyurea can be used to protect outdoor or indoor projects that are prone to chemical or physical damage.
Finally, the giant statue display is ready for painting. Each section that needs a different color is carefully masked and covered and sprayed with a spray gun.
Shipping a Giant Foam Sculpture
Shipping large custom foam statues can be a challenging process, as these items are often fragile and require careful handling to avoid damage during transport. WhiteClouds has an experienced woodworking and shipping team that custom builds each crate to specific shipping requirements. In this case, the customer wanted the entire statue in one piece for easy installation. A wooden crate is first built to match the size perfectly. Additional supports are added and the display is either tied down with straps or supported with additional foam pieces so there is minimal movement. Just as every custom project is unique, so is each shipping crate and method. For giant pieces like this, a flatbed truck is used.
As a final bonus, WhiteClouds made several additional 3D-printed mini statues that were sent to the Emc3 and Orca Security team.
Final Statue Completed Image Gallery
Check out some of the final images of Orkie, the giant company mascot sculpture, at its first trade show event. Even a dog wanted a pic!
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WhiteClouds is a Next-gen 3D fabrication company. We use 3D technologies to fabricate a wide-range of products for businesses and consumers but our key ingredients are innovation, craftsmanship and creativity. Please contact us to see how we can help with your next project by filling out the form below, emailing us at [email protected] or by calling us at 385-206-8700.