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The world's largest models of Orca whales were unveiled recently in Tulalip, a small town and Indian reservation north of Seattle. The 18-foot and 23-foot long whales were created using a spray-applied, rigid polyurethane specially developed by Innovative Polymers, for fast, efficient replication of the Orcas' enormous skin surface.
The unique models are displayed at the tribe's Quil Ceda Village resort, casino and shopping complex in a new Cabela's sporting goods store where they are suspended from the ceiling chasing 18 King Salmon.
World renowned, award-winning artist and taxidermist Rick Krane, who designed and sculpted the whales, explains, "The size of the Orcas and the plan to hang them from the store ceiling posed the greatest challenges for the project." He continues, "We had to develop a construction method that would minimize weight, provide outstanding durability and offer the life-like aesthetic appearance required."
Krane successfully created the whales utilizing his artistic background and expertise in handling the advanced polyurethanes and foam materials he would need to reproduce the whales. Working with Krane on the project was fellow artist and world champion taxidermist Terry Weick.
Tulalip is a sheltered bay on the eastern shore of Washington's Puget Sound where, for centuries, Coastal Salish Indians lived, fished and hunted. Today, the bay and more than 22,000 acres of surrounding land are a permanent reservation where descendants of the Snohomish, Snoqualmie and Skylomish tribes live together as the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.
The rich heritage of these self-described People of the Salmon provided the creative inspiration for the fabrication of Orca whale display. According to legend, killer whales, guided by ancestral tribe spirits, assisted salmon hunters with their catches during times of famine. The whales, known for their unique black-and-white markings, continue to return to the same waters in the Pacific Northwest from April through October each year.
Krane began the project by producing sketches of both the large and small whales. To create the body structure of each whale, foam sections were hand-carved to shape. The foam pieces were then assembled using Innovative Polymers' IE-3030, a material often chosen by taxidermists for its easy handling and versatility. The polyurethane was mixed incorporating an IE-32 filler to increase viscosity, improve vertical hang-up and produce a high-quality, seamless surface across each whale's body. An added benefit of the polyurethane system was its gel time, which was long enough to provide for complete seam laminating before the material set up. In addition, the cured product had a rigid, Shore 70D hardness along with minimal linear shrinkage and good mechanical properties. Krane also utilized
IE-3065 polyurethane surface coat to improve seam integrity. The material has a high flexural modulus of 635,000 psi.
When the carved foam substructure was complete, Innovative Polymers'
IE- 3067 was sprayed over the entire surface of each whale to produce a rigid and durable skin that could be painted to the desired black-and-white colors. The sag-resistant casting resin was specially developed for spray application onto vertical surfaces and cures at room temperature. The low-volatility formulation for IE-3067 is free of mercury, MOCA and TDI.
Krane explains, "Innovative Polymers' sprayable polyurethane cut our costs significantly. It offers precise control over coating thickness and uniformity to reduce the amount of material required for the skin. It also provided a faster application option...a major factor in producing the 18-foot and 23-foot long Orcas." The high flexural strength, high modulus polyurethane contributed to the structural durability and integrity of the enormous whale bodies as well.
When the skins were complete, surfaces were filled and sanded smooth. Then, Krane began hand-drawing and painting the black-and-white details that characterize Orca bodies. He also added a gray ghost stripe directly behind the dorsal fins that appears as a unique "fingerprint" on each whale.
Teeth were cast by Wieck in silicone rubber molds using IE-3030 white polyurethane for the basic rounded eye structure. Once each eye cured, the pupil areas were drilled out and translucent IE-3025 polyurethane was applied to make a raised section that completed the realistic eye shape. The large whale mouths, complete with life-like pink tongues, were formed from cardboard and IE-3065, a casting resin that exhibits high flexural modulus.
"Every model and taxidermy assignment presents its own unusual challenges that, as artists, we enjoy meeting. With our combined skills and expertise backed by the versatile family of Innovative Polymers polyurethanes, Terry and I were able to once again meet and exceed expectations," Krane summarizes.
Innovative Polymers is a leading manufacturer of advanced polyurethanes for modelmaking, prototyping and initial part production. Shore A and Shore D hardness materials are formulated without mercury, MOCA or TDI. The comprehensive line of Innovative Polymers polyurethanes exhibits a broad range of physical performance properties. In-house chemists specialize in custom-coloring and formulating products tailored to specific project requirements. Outstanding product quality and rapid, cost- effective response to customer needs are our top priorities.
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