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Recreating 250-Year-Old Dragon Sculptures with 3D Printing

Venture Beat reports on some exciting recent news concerning how 3D printing is bringing the past to life once more.

Around 250 years ago in the United Kingdom, during the reign of King George III, the Great Pagoda at Kew (a royal palace) was built, and it featured painted wooden dragons “[adorning] the octagonal corners of the pagoda.”  Sadly, during the 1780s, these dragons were removed in order to accommodate roof repairs.  “But they were never replaced, and rumors floated that the dragons served as payment for royal gambling debts.  Experts now believe the wood simply rotted over time.”

This is where 3D printing comes in.  As part of the final restoration for this palace (which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, has just recently been reopened to the public), “3D printer maker 3D Systems has installed 72 large-scale 3D printed dragons” to replace their wooden counterparts.

In order to complete the project, 3D Systems used “Geomagic software, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), 3D printing, and high quality finishing.”  These new 3D printed dragons were created using “durable polyamide 12 nylon material capable of producing a look and feel comparable to the original dragons…The project involved scanning a wood-carved dragon with the Faro Design ScanArm into 3D Systems’ Geomagic Design X reverse engineering software. The CAD-designed dragons are hollow and are 60 percent lighter than wood alternatives.”

Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) commissioned these pieces, and their project director Craig Hatto explains their decision to go with 3D printing and 3D systems.  HRP knew the sculptures had to withstand the “inclement English weather.  We turned to 3D Systems to provide the rapid throughput, accurate details, and excellent finishing needed for this project.  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.”

The final step of this project involved 3D Systems’ “skilled artisans who hand-painted each” individual dragon.

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 3D Systems and Venture Beat

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