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These intricately sculpted ice cubes weren’t 3D printed—they were 3D subtracted

A tiny, icy version of the real thing.
By Richard Macauley
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

We’ve long been big fans of CNC routing at Quartz—a way of carving intricate designs and shapes into solid materials to churn out everything from furniture to car parts. While 3D printing promised to usher in a revolution, a truly useful printer has yet to emerge. CNC routing, on the other hand, has had practical uses for years and is gaining popularity among DIY homesteaders and industrial manufacturers alike.

The technology, which is sometimes described as 3D subtraction because it chisels away at a material, got a boost in March when Japanese whisky maker Suntory and its ad agencies TBWA and Hakuhodo were awarded a “Lotus” trophy from Thailand’s Asia-Pacific Advertising Festival. The agencies’ experiential ad campaign used CNC routing to turn miniature ice blocks into stunningly intricate ice cubes that look like some of the world’s most-recognized landmarks and figures.

The ice cubes were created with a CNC router chilled to -7 °C (19 °F), and the machine was fed 3D sculpting data using Autodesk 123D, a free 3D modelling software for desktop or iOS.



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