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A Kiwi Story: Art Meets Motorsport

Recently, Wavey Dynamics wrapped up a project as part of a sponsorship activation between Vuse and McLaren Racing’s partnership.

Our friends at The Motorsport Collective have been working a great campaign for this partnership called 'Driven by Change', which provides artists who would have found it extremely difficult to showcase their work in the world of Formula 1, an opportunity to do exactly that.

When Lindsay at The Motorsport Collective got in touch and asked if we could be involved and make an 8ft tall Kiwi bird from a wood sculpture, the first thought was a resounding ‘yes!’.

One of the great things about motorsport is that the skills, knowledge and experience gained in the process of using scientific principles to make cars fast around a lap and to lead teams of people towards a common objective are also applicable to many other industries and activities.

Within the technology, leadership and project management, motorsport has a lot to teach us.

One of the main directives we are building Wavey Dynamics with is to find opportunities to apply what we’ve learned and continue to learn whilst working in our core business, into spaces outside of our core business.

Always enjoying a challenge, this was the first high profile product which we could approach with exactly that focus.

Coming up, i’m going to break down the project and outline the process we followed. The finished product is an art piece, but it was formed with real, modern engineering and it most certainly had the kind of super short deadlines motorsport projects usually do!

To be specific, the brief was to turn a 1ft tall wood Kiwi sculpture, beautifully carved and painted by a Mexican artist, Luis Pablo specifically for this McLaren activation in the style of Alberije; a regional folk art, into an 8ft tall, brightly coloured replica.

At 300mm, this Kiwi had a lot of growing to do.

Incase you were wondering - the link between McLaren and the Kiwi bird is that its founder was from New Zealand, where the bird is native.

Problem Solving

The first problem to attack was choosing a suitable material and therefore the manufacturing process to be used. There were three reasonable options available there.

  • 3D printed polymer

  • Fibreglass

  • High Density foam.

With the tight deadline on this, fibreglass was automatically wiped from contention as the mould creation and lay up would have taken too long.

3D printing was likely manageable in sections but what we’re doing certainly wasn’t the best application of this process - some level of structural analysis would have been necessary to create an efficient sculpture using minimal material and printing time. All a luxury which wasn’t affordable in this timescale.

High density polyurethane foam was a clear winner. Relating to motorsport, a more familiar application of this foam is in the context of scale styling models for automotive design studios, and as core material for various carbon fibre components you see on race cars, where it provides additional stiffness and strength in wings, wishbones and chassis components.

High density foam is used as a core material in various carbon fibre components such as this F1 wing.

Similarly to precision metallic components being machined from billet, foam can also be machined from layered blocks using CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machines which are extremely accurate and fast at creating sculptures from 3D models, working to small tolerances. The large size of the sculpture would be no problem either as the ‘billet’ would be built up in layers of foam board and the Kiwi’s form would be cut in sections to be joined later.

Cutting the Bird

The first step was to actually create the 3D model, which meant we needed to get hands on the original wood sculpture and have it digitised.

After some 3D scanning and CAD work, the resulting model was scaled up from 297mm to around 2400mm and sent over to our milling supplier. It was a simple form to cut; without complex undercuts and so on, so a simple 3-axis platform could do the job here.

The bird was sectioned into three parts for the milling process due to its size; the head, body and feet.

Once the overall form was finished, it was time for the final phase - paint and finishing.

As the head, feet and the body were glued together for the first time, the project began to come alive and paint preparation begun.

To provide an adequate surface for the water based acrylic paint, the porous foam had to be primed with what is in essence a spray on plastic which solidifies into a fairly smooth and uniform coating and also provided a little additional hardness to the surface to protect from dents and scratches as it was later handled.

The paint artist was working from a pattern which was provided to us by PRISM, the sports PR & Management agency who commissioned this project and were working with the original artist, Luis. Once colour Pantones were agreed, the key McLaren Racing colours of Papaya and Blue were faithfully recreated and the green light was given to get going.

The trademark Papaya and blue colours of the McLaren Racing brand needed to be accurately represented on the Kiwi

Just before painting was completed, We at Wavey Dynamics, PRISM, a film production crew and original artist Luis travelled to the paint shop to see it for the first time.

Everyone loved it! It’s always a relief as a project comes to completion to see that your client is happy with the efforts and the final result so it was a good atmosphere that day. We were also able to have a great conversation with Luis to understand a little more about his art - he definitely had some questions about how it was all done!

Just a few days later was the photoshoot at McLaren Technical Centre (MTC) where the Kiwi was showcased and the presentation to McLaren could take place.

Lindsey Eckhouse from McLaren Racing was there to receive it and happily was as impressed as we all were with the finished product.

A First Time for Everything..

As this kind of thing was a first for us, there was a little research required into the various techniques required to make sure the approach was as efficient as possible, but once we were moving the processes were the same as anything we have previously done with metal or polymer parts:

  1. Reverse engineering - 3D scanning

  2. 3D model creation & development

  3. CNC machining

  4. Part finishing

  5. Delivery

All in all, this was all completed in just a little over 3 weeks.

We really valued this opportunity to be involved in what was a pretty high profile sponsorship activation. It was great to work outside of the realm of high performance road and racing cars and as usual there was always something to learn and improve upon in the future. A job well done.

Thanks to our colleague Dan Beeks who was onboard to help out with the project and enable us to get everything wrapped up in time.


Interested to see how our skills can transfer over to your project?

Thanks to Bakers Patterns for the CNC milling and 3D Eye for the assembly and painting.

All studio and MTC photo credit to Tom Hull.


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