suntory whisky

Miniature ice sculptures are making a splash in Japan. Creative agency TBWA/Hakuhodo applied “cutting-edge” (pun intended) technology to chunks of ice to create multidimensional mini sculptures best enjoyed in a cocktail for Suntory Whisky’s unique “3D on the Rocks” ad campaign. The Suntory Whisky campaign recreates iconic landmarks and imagery into incredibly intricate ice sculptures submerged in their award-winning whisky. So, who isn’t using 3D printing-like technologies nowadays?

The Japanese spirits giant enlisted the services of a company with a 5-axis CNC mill to create the world’s most sophisticated whiskey-on-the-rocks orders. From a Zen Buddhist temple to the Statue of Liberty, each tiny ice sculpture was precisely milled on a “computer numerical control” (CNC) router, which was stored at below freezing temperatures (about 19 Fahrenheit) to keep the cubes from melting.

suntory whisky

The carving machines are fed a design by computer and then use sharp tools to whittle a block of material such as wood or metal (or ice) into the designated form. The creative team started with Autodesk 123D, a desktop and iOS app that allows you to use your iPhone or iPad to capture 3D images, manipulate it, and then print it out using a 3D printer, CNC router, laser cutter, or even a holographic printing process. The machine carves the ice with a thick bit, and intricate details are then incorporated with a finer tip.

suntory whisky

While the creative agency created its own cubes featuring designs – such as a shark, the Statue of Liberty, and a high-heeled shoe – it also ran a contest and asked customers to submit their favorite design ideas. Ten entrants were then selected, whisked away to a secret location in Tokyo, and provided a drink featuring their own miniature ice sculpture.

Based on the complexity of the design, each CNC-milled ice sculpture can take between one to six hours to complete, so we probably won’t see the ice cubes in our typical bar or party drinks any time soon. However, you don’t need to wait that long to see the mini ice marvels get created. Watch a chunk of formless ice get turned into a striking mini version of the Kinkaku-ji Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto in the video below.

Photos via TBWA\Hakuhodo; h/t Inhabitat

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