Zengineering

At a staggering height of 152 metres – equivalent to a fifty-storey building – a giant statue of Buddha will soon dominate the skyline in Bodhgaya, India.

As the centrepiece of the Maitreya project – a burgeoning Buddhist development that will consist of temples, schools, libraries and gardens – the statue of Maitreya Buddha represents one of the biggest civil engineering challenges of recent years. A small handcrafted statue will provide the model for a structure consisting of 4,000 2m cast bronze panels that’s expected to last for 1,000 years, This ‘reverse engineering’ process began with a detailed scanning of the hand-made prototype using GOM’s ATOS scanner. This produced a dense polygon ‘cloud’ of precise accuracy that was exported to Delcam’s CopyCAD software to create a complete surface model of the statue from the underlying scanned data.

As well as using tight tolerances to ensure that small anomalies in the CAD model won’t be exaggerated in size when the model is scaled up, the surfacing process was also used to smooth out any imperfections in the original artwork.

At the moment, discussion is going on regarding how to accurately compensate for the visual effects of the huge scale so that the appearance of traditional proportions is accurately maintained when being viewed at a height of 152.4 m.

Once complete, the surface model will be passed on to structural engineers for an analysis of the bronze ‘skin’ and framework and the detail-design of the structure. It’s feasible that the analysis may show that the bronze ‘skin’ structure requires a series of expansion joints in order to relieve thermal stresses. If so, this will lead to further surface modelling.

4,000 individual panels will then be cropped from the model data using Delcam’s PowerSHAPE, which will also create wall thicknesses, expansion joints, inspection targets and other civil engineering features. Other considerations during this process will be the machinability of the shapes and the need to reduce weld lines on obvious areas of the statue – like the face and hands.

Once the panels have been developed, PowerMILL will be used to create toolpaths for the production of moulds. The Casting Development Centre, based in Sheffield, is now testing different methodologies for the creation of the sand casting moulds. Due to the enormity of the project, once a process has been selected, a casting foundry will actually be built on the site of the statue to machine moulds and cast the panels.

Each bronze panel will then be inspected with PowerINSPECT against the original CAD model to ensure that it is correct to tolerance before it is added to the civil engineering structure of the statue. The software will also be used in conjunction with a civil engineering laser tracker or theodolite system to check the positions of the panels as the statue is assembled.

Commenting on this huge undertaking, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Spritual Director of the project, said ‘….the Project itself is not our first motivation. The first motivation is the happiness of sentient beings….The goal is peace and happiness of all the sentient beings in this world.’ Delcam Tel: 0121 683 1000 Email: pjd@delcam.com Web: www.delcam.com Enter 40