“Alexa: Sculpt a masterpiece.” That command may sound like science fiction, but a company called Robotor has already invented its own version of the concept: a self-programming, automated chisel capable of creating stunning sculptures out of materials like marble and granite.
Based in Carrara, Italy — the same city that supplied the marble used by 16th century artist Michelangelo to sculpt his masterpiece “David” — Robotor developed the machine by “drawing on research and interaction between art, the local area, tradition and technology,” according to the company website. Rather than replacing artists, the chisel is meant to supplement their skills “by doing work that would be strenuous, risky and dangerous for humans.”
Giacomo Massari and Filippo Tincolini, who co-founded Robotor, elaborated on the idea: “As sculptors, having to deal with works of immense complexity led to the need to equip us with anthropomorphic robots, technological tools that could simplify our lives,” they stated.
Their automated chisel can create works of art up to around 15 feet tall (4.5 meters), and works off of a photograph or 3D scan of the desired sculpture, which is designed by a human. Robotor begins by mapping out the shape and properties of the material it will carve, Designboom reported. The machine’s mechanical arm then relies on self-programming technology to decide which tools to use during each step of the process, including instruments that dust and polish the piece before completion.
And the device’s talents go beyond simply making life easier for humans. The chisel can be used to restore or recreate damaged sculptures, as it did in 2016 with the Monumental Arch of Palmyra in Syria, which had been destroyed by an extremist group.
“Our technology enabled us to reconstruct this precious ornamental archway in just 5 weeks, and from a three-dimensional scan,” Massari said in an October 2022 press release, explaining: “this work came to represent a symbol of the strength of technology at the service of mankind, standing against the barbarity and injustice of war. … it has proved to be of great importance for us.”
He later added: “Our goal is to push the boundaries! To push the boundaries in order to ensure that there are no limitations for the artist and to use technology to enable seemingly impossible feats to be achieved … The robot-sculptor is already a reality, but the robot-artist will never exist!”