Delcam takes lead role in largest ever reverse engineering project

Birmingham-based CAD/CAM company Delcam is involved in the world’s largest reverse engineering project, helping to build the massive Maitreya Bhudda statue, which will stand 152m tall, in Bodhgaya, India. The scale of the project is formidable. The statue will be three-times the height of the Statue of Liberty and its throne alone is 17-storeys high. […]

Birmingham-based CAD/CAM company Delcam is involved in the world’s largest reverse engineering project, helping to build the massive Maitreya Bhudda statue, which will stand 152m tall, in Bodhgaya, India.

The scale of the project is formidable. The statue will be three-times the height of the Statue of Liberty and its throne alone is 17-storeys high. Over one million pieces of art will be housed in it and it will include a library and viewing facilities in the head, accessible only to the holiest Buddhists.

British sculptors Denise and Peter Griffin have created a small 2m-tall model of the Bhudda in their studio in Eastbourne with direction from leading religious authorities, including the Dalai Lama, based on ancient scriptures and Bhuddist masters.

Project director is Peter Kedge, an English Bhuddist currently living in Canada. Civil engineering is being handled by Mott Macdonald. Design work began in 1997 and fabrication is due for completion by 2003.

Delcam’s reverse engineering expertise is playing a vital role, employing a full range of CopyCAD and allied software tools. Product marketing manager Chris Lawrie, who leads the Delcam team, said: `This is stretching our technology to the limit, creating a massive freeform shape which must be created precisely in every detail.’

The artists’ model is being scanned using a Gom ATOS scanner into CopyCAD 3.0, which models the surfaces forming the skin of the statue, under the direction of project engineering coordinator Derek Smart. The digital model will take two months to create and will be used by team members worldwide.

Taking this surface model as a starting point, Powershape software will be used to design the 8,000 two-metre, square cast bronze panels from which the full-sized statue will be built. Attributes such as thickness, expansion joints and inspection points will be added

The Casting Development Centre, based in Sheffield, is testing various methods to create the sandcasting moulds. Once a suitable process has been selected, the Maitreya Project will build a casting foundry on the site of the statue to machine the moulds and cast the bronze panels.

Each bronze panel will be inspected against the original CAD model with PowerInspect, to ensure correct tolerance before it is installed. The software will be used in conjunction with a laser tracker or theodolite to check the position of the panels as the statue is assembled. The panels will then be aligned and secured to a structural frame which will allow for expansion and contraction of the panels and water drainage.

Features cast on the model will be machined in bronze and then measured using Delcam’s PowerInspect package. Detailed marquetry will then be carried out using ArtCAM.

The estimated cost of the project is expected to be about $200m.

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