Some Very Old Dragons Get New 3D Printed Life

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[Image: Richard Lea-Hair]

In 1761, the Great Pagoda at Kew was commissioned during the reign of King George III. It was a beautiful creation that drew visitors from all around the world, and still does today – it’s been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During its early days, the Pagoda was adorned with painted wooden dragons that perched at the octagonal corners of each level. In the 1780s, however, the dragons were removed for roof repairs and never replaced – until now.

The Pagoda has been undergoing a Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) restoration, and one of the most important parts was replacing the dragons that were either sold off or simply rotted once they were taken down from the roof. The organization wanted the replacement dragons to look authentic, but also needed them to be able to withstand the English climate, unlike the originals. HRP turned to 3D Systems‘ On Demand Manufacturing team, which used Geomagic software and SLS 3D printing to create lightweight, intricate replicas of the original dragons.

“We turned to 3D Systems to provide the rapid throughput, accurate details, and excellent finishing that was needed for this project,” said Craig Hatto, project director, Historic Royal Palaces. “The engineering skill of 3D Systems’ team, the opportunity to light-weight the dragon statues, and the material longevity of SLS 3D printing were key considerations for this project.”

[Image: 3D Systems]

First, the On Demand Manufacturing team 3D scanned a carved wooden dragon with a FARO Design ScanArm into Geomagic Design X reverse engineering software. Using CAD allowed the team to add hidden features for mounting the dragons to the pagoda, as well as to make the dragons 60% lighter than a wooden counterpart would have been. These lighter-weight dragons put less stress on the pagoda’s roof. Using CAD also enabled the designers to scale the dragons to different sizes from 1150 to 1850 mm in length.

“In 3D printing, we are not limited by the need or time required to wait for tooling,” said Nick Lewis, General Manager, On Demand Manufacturing, 3D Systems. “The existence of digital 3D data gives us freedom to produce parts rapidly, and with custom sizes.”

The dragons were 3D printed in DuraForm PA, a durable polyamide 12 material that gave them the look and feel of the original dragons. They were then finished and hand-painted by 3D Systems’ artisans.

[Image: Richard Lea-Hair]

“We so often see 3D printing technology applied to new innovations that when we get the chance to literally make history, it is quite exciting,” said Phil Schultz, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Plastics and On Demand Manufacturing, 3D Systems. “In this collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces, we were able to bring new technology to bear on a historical landmark – restoring it to its former beauty and helping to ensure its future for generations to come. It’s a testament to the capabilities and expertise of our On Demand Manufacturing team. Our full suite of durable materials, 3D printing technologies, reverse engineering software  and practical expertise allow us to create a custom solution no matter how unique the customer’s needs.”

3D Systems first showed us the 3D printed dragons last fall at the TCT Show, and the Great Pagoda at Kew will open to the public on July 13th.

3D printing is increasingly coming into play around the world to preserve and restore UNESCO sites, allowing for greater access to cultural heritage.

3D printed dragon at the TCT Show. [Image: Sarah Goehrke]

Discuss dragons, pagodas and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

 

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