In 1761, the Great Pagoda at the Kew gardens of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, southwest London, was commissioned during the reign of King George III; it has drawn visitors from all around the world ever since and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003. The Pagoda was originally adorned with 72 painted wooden dragons, which were removed for building maintenance in the 1780s and were either sold off or rotted; they have not been replaced until now.

Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) and 3D Systems of Rock Hill, South Carolina collaborated to 3D print and install 72 large-scale model dragons using 3D Systems‘s On Demand Manufacturing team, who used Geomagic software and their sPro 230 SLS printer to create replicas of the originals able to withstand the English climate.

3D Systems‘s On Demand Manufacturing team started by doing a three-dimensional scan of a carved wooden dragon with a FARO Design ScanArm into Geomagic Design X reverse engineering software. Using computer aided design enabled them to add hidden features for mounting the dragons to the pagoda, as well making the dragons 60% lighter than a wooden original would have been. Using computer aided design, they were also able to scale the dragon designs to different sizes from 1150 to 1850 mm in length. Each dragon was printed from DuraForm PA, a durable polyamide 12 nylon material, being finished by two of 3D Systems’s artisans to hand paint each detail, with each dragon taking circa one and a half working days to paint.

3D Systems unveiled the 3D printed dragons at the autumn 2017 TCT show in Birmingham and the site reopened to the masses on July 13th 2018.


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