At two hundred and twelve feet tall, the Riesenrad (“giant wheel”) in Vienna stood as the world’s tallest ferris wheel for nearly sixty five years. When it was built back in 1897 it was a marvel of engineering and construction, and the fact that it is still in operation more than a century later speaks volumes about how well made it was. Not only is the Riesenrad, made world famous after appearing in the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights, still one of Austria’s most popular tourist attractions, but it is a much beloved symbol of the history of Vienna. While the Riesenrad was originally built to operate with thirty bright red gondolas, after sustaining damage in World War 2 it was repaired and converted to operate with just fifteen gondolas, which are still in use today.
For Vienna resident and Thingiverse user Chris (stylesuxx) the choice to design and construct a small, 3D printable version of the Riesenrad as his entry into the See The World Thingiversity Art Challenge was an easy choice. Unfortunately for him he had only a week in order to meet the deadline, so in order to finish on time he worked tireless day and night to complete it. When looking over the finished model you would hardly even guess that he was rushing, and Thingiverse agrees because his model took one of the top spots in the contest among some pretty strong competition.
“I joined the challenge a week before the deadline and knew from the beginning that I will need to use time for printing effectively. Before leaving home in the morning I started printing a batch which allowed me to do other things in the mean time. In the evening I used the time to quickly prototype the parts so I could do one or more batches overnight,” Chris said of his hectic printing schedule.
The 3D printable Riesenrad’s main wheels are actually constructed from ten individual parts that would all need to be properly cleaned and joined, making the quick construction quite the undertaking. In total all of the parts used to construct the wheel took Chris about sixteen hours to 3D print. The two stands that hold the wheel upright required another twelve hours to complete both the front and back portions. And of course the fifteen gondolas and their separate roofs and attachment arms added another six hours to the total printing time required for the project.
“I set an alarm for the notification coming from the printer to wake me up and remove the parts from the printing bed and start a new print job before going to bed again (or in my case the couch, since my girlfriend was not all too amused about waking up every couple of hours, and me coming back smelling like hairspray),” Chris explained.
The entire assembly process, including painting and post processing took Chris about eight hours in total. He suggests that you start by assembling the outer ring and all of the gondola pod holders in sections and finishing the ring once each section is complete. To construct a working version of the ferris wheel, you can insert a miniature, slow turning motor inside of the center pieces with two bearings so it moves smoothly. Then use a thin twine or fishing line to connect the outer rings to the center of the wheel. Chris suggests 608 bearings in conjunction with a Igarashi 20G-380 motor, which can easily be run with two AA batteries. Then just attach all of your gondolas to the outer wheel and it should be off and running.
Here is a video of the 3D printed Riesenrad in motion:
If anyone wanting to make their own is looking for authenticity, but doesn’t want to do any painting, then Chris suggests using red filament for the gondolas and gray filament for the rest of the build. However if they are willing to, he suggests painting the inside of the gondolas brown, using white for the trim around windows, doors and the gondola numbers and grey for the gondola rooftops. Of course experienced painters will probably use a lot more color than that, and with some quick smoothing to the 3D printed parts there are a lot of really great possibilities for a truly spectacular paintjob.
Chris created his version of the Riesenrad OpenScad so anyone who would like to print their own can easily adapt his design for multiple sizes depending on how big they want it. It can be scaled down a little bit, although not too much without thickening the parts, or it can be made much larger for a higher quality replica. Chris included detailed assembly instructions on Thingiverse so anyone making their own won’t make any critical mistakes requiring parts to be replaced. However if you do mess up anything all of the parts were uploaded as individual 3D models so single replacements can be easily reprinted.
Let us know which of the winning models for the Thingiverse See The World Art Challenge were your favorite and let us know what you think of Chris’ completed version over on our 3D Printed Riesenrad Ferris Wheel forum at 3DPB.com.