Animal Organization is 3D Printing a Life-size Elephant Using Uniquely Modified Ultimaker 3D Printers

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elephant5We have seen 3D printing used for many great causes, including the creation of unique devices, braces, and aids for animals around the world. Whether it was the printing of a leg brace for Quack Quack the duck, a cart for TurboRoo the legless dog, or a beak for a Penguin, 3D printing has done a lot to improve the lives of many animals. Now, an organization in the Netherlands, called ‘World Animal Protection‘, is trying something quite unique, in more ways than one.

On World Elephant Day, which was on August 12, World Animal Protection in the Netherlands launched what they say is the first ever 3D printed petition. The event runs from August 12 through August 30, and they are asking the Dutch to make a pledge never to ride an elephant again, via their campaign website. Seems simple enough right?

Best of all though, is that designer Joris van Tubergen has taken 5 Ultimaker 3D printers and created a 3D printing system that allows for them to print very large objects. The Ultimaker 3D printers have been set up on 2.5 meter high columns so that as the object is printed, the actual printer is moved up the column, while the print bed remains at the same level. This allows for the printers to have an extremely high z-axis, thus creating very large objects.

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“With a regular 3D printer it takes months to print large objects. By printing with five of these printers simultaneously in high columns, the print time is drastically shortened,” explained Joris van Tubergen. “I am also very curious about the result.”

As pledges come in, they will signal to the 3D printers that have been installed at the Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, to print more of the life-size elephant. The idea behind the campaign is to raise awareness about the cruelty inflicted on the thousands of elephants that are held in captivity by the tourism industry, and reduce the large demand for elephant rides at shows.

elephant4“As soon as someone takes the pledge on our website, the printers receive a signal that they need to print a piece of the elephant. For the first 20,000 pledgers the printer also prints their name on the elephant, using the specially designed Elefont which looks like the elephants skin wrinkles,” explained Maartje Maas Communication Advisor for World Animal Protection Nederland to 3DPrint.com. “It takes a minimum of 20,000 people to build the elephant and the elephant will be a life-size Asian elephant consisting of 15 pieces.”

As for the pledges, so far in the two days that the campaign has been running, 7,264 pledges have been made. It seems as though they are well on their way to printing out the entire elephant. The organization has not decided exactly how the elephant will be assembled if and when the 15 large pieces are finished printing. “We are still thinking on the best way of binding the different parts of the elephant together but most likely this will be done with rods going through the separate pieces,” Mass told us.

While most of us probably are not aware of the elephant captivity problems, they are quite significant. Worldwide, there are 25,000 elephants that are currently held in captivity, with 4,000-5,000 being used in the tourism industry. Elephant rides remain extremely popular in countries like Thailand, India, and Nepal.

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“Most of the captive elephants in the tourism industry have been captured illegally from the wild at a very young age,” explained the World Animal Protection in the Netherlands. “As elephants are not domesticated, they are taken from their mothers at an early age for their spirits to be broken. This is a very stressful and very painful process that includes restraining the young elephant and denying it food and water. In many cases, severe pain is inflicted to speed up the process. Although this process takes place over a rather short period of time compared to the lifespan of the elephant, it leaves severe marks in the animal’s psychology, as any deeply traumatic event would in highly developed animals.”

Without a doubt this is a tremendous campaign, which if nothing else, will bring awareness to the international community about the abuse that these elephants are faced with. At the same time, seeing a 3D printed life-size elephant will be a reminder of where we have come as a society, both technologically, as well as socially.

“This project shows that 3D printing is not just for hobbyists or commercial purposes – it can emphasize benefaction and the importance of a cause like World Elephant Day,” said Ultimaker CEO Siert Wijnia. “We are very pleased that World Animal Protection chose Ultimaker as their 3D printing partner. The very versatile Ultimaker Original is a great fit for this project.”

A live feed of the printing process can be seen via the World Animal Protection website.  Have you pledged never to ride an elephant again? What do you think of this tremendous campaign? Discuss in the 3D printed life-size elephant forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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