Unique printing process creates the world’s largest artwork

Larger-than-life images of cherries, oranges and avocadoes adorn the horseshoe-shaped roof of Rotterdam’s market hall, turning it into art. The work has been printed onto thousands of aluminum panels on the inside arch of the hall in a process that holds great promise for buildings around the world.

Larger-than-life images of cherries, oranges and avocadoes adorn the horseshoe-shaped roof of Rotterdam’s market hall, turning it into a work of art that has been compared to the Sistine Chapel but is actually called “The Horn of Plenty”. The market hall, designed by a team including the architectural firm MVRDV, property developer ProVast and architect Winy Maas, houses not only food stands but an apartment block of 230 flats bending over the market hall in a surreal fashion.

The arch of the building is made of natural stones. The artwork consisting of fruits, vegetables, meats, breads and butterflies – created by Dutch artist Arno Coenen – has been printed onto thousands of aluminum panels on the inside arch of the hall in a process that holds great promise for buildings around the world.

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The printing company realizing the brightly colored ceiling is TS Visuals, a specialized hard substrate printing company based in the Netherlands. It used the artwork by Arno Coenen who enlisted the help of Pixar Studios to create an image large enough and sharp enough to fill 4,000 aluminum panels. To realize printouts in the desired quality, the resolution had to be equivalent to the resolution required by high quality magazine printers. The resulting digital file holding the images had an impressive size of 1.47TB consisting of 400,000 megapixels.

TS Visuals used a process called sublimation, a unique method of applying visuals to coated metal or glass. The ink of the printed design is heated to such high temperatures that it turns into a gas and penetrates the coated aluminum panel. It transfers and then forms a durable permanent layer inside the coating. The panels and coatings were developed by TS Visual’s research department; they are graffiti-resistant, UV-resistant and can be cut into any desired shape.

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For the Rotterdam market hall, 4000 panels, each two millimeters thick and measuring 1,50 meters in width and length, were decorated with a total of 6 kilometers of unique images, using the sublimation process, to create a visual totaling 11,000 square meters. Because of the sound requirements of the building, the panels were perforated. They were also coated with a glossy, scratch-resistant finish.

TS Visuals emphasizes that sublimation offers a large number of novel possibilities for applications in architecture, exteriors, interiors, transport, infrastructure, advertising and marketing.