by Patrick Vicente July 10, 2018

As part of the final restoration of a historic palace built in 1761, South Carolina-based company 3D Systems has created and installed 72 large-scale, 3D printed dragon sculptures at the Great Pagoda of the Kew Gardens in London.

The sculptures were created to replace the original 250-year-old dragon figures at the royal palace built during the reign of King George III. In the 1780s, the painted wooden dragons that adorned the corners of the pagoda were removed due to roof repairs.

Independent charity Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) not only wanted to authentically replicate the dragons during the restoration, but also considered materials that could withstand the country's inclement weather.

"We turned to 3D Systems to provide the rapid throughput, accurate details, and excellent finishing that was needed for this project," said HRP project director Craig Hatto. "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."

3D Systems used a scan-to-CAD (computer-aided design) workflow featuring Geomagic software, Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), 3D printing, and high-quality finishing to make the lightweight, durable dragons. They were made with polyamide 12 nylon material capable of producing a look and feel comparable with the original ones.

A unique combination of research and reverse engineering by the company’s On-Demand Manufacturing team allowed rapid digital production of the parts. By scanning a wood-carved dragon with the FARO Design ScanArm into 3D Systems' Geomagic Design X reverse engineering software, the CAD-designed dragons are 60% lighter than wood alternatives.

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

The Great Pagoda at Kew opens to the public on July 13, 2018.


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Patrick Vicente
Patrick Vicente


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