Here at 3D Rapid Print, one of the fastest growing 3D Printing companies in the Thames Valley, we like to keep abreast of the latest innovations in 3D printing.

On September 12th 2020, New Zealand’s Rotorua Lakes Council (the council), unveiled a 12m tall 3D printed sculpture of a flame that had been almost 5 years in the making, despite it costing circa NZ$740,000 to build and being installed more than 3 years late. Estimated at weighing circa 3.5 metric tonnes, it stands on a roundabout that marks the intersection between New Zealand State Highways 5 and 30; its inner and outer helices were transported there by helicopter. Named Te Ahi Tupua (Māori for The Eternal Fire), the council proclaimed that the sculpture represents what they referred to as “the story of the arrival of geothermal energy to the Rotorua region.”

In 2015, the New Zealand Transport Agency and the council agreed to collaborate to commission a large-scale artwork to be the centrepiece of the roundabout. Between expressions of interest to make the artwork and an independent panel narrowing these down to actual design concepts, the same panel selected the Te Ahi Tupua design in April 2016. After problems finding a contractor to build the sculpture out of steel, composite materials company Kilwell Fibretube (also of Rotorua) approached the council proposing to build the sculpture in December 2017, unsurprisingly out of composite materials.

In March 2018, 3D printing the sculpture’s core began, which comprised more than 1,200 3D printed interlocking cylindrical blocks of PLA. (Including reprints and test pieces, this constituted circa 1,700 3D printed objects.) Taking a total of more than 17,000 3D printing hours, 3D printing happened non-stop with an unspecified number of printers working for over 6 months, requiring staff to check the printers twice a day to remove finished pieces and switch out filament reels. To make the sculpture strong enough, its PLA core was repeatedly wrapped in several layers of carbon fibre and fibreglass, such that the council boasted that it was built to withstand wind speeds of up to 175 kph (109 mph).

3D printing is an amazing tool. It can grow your small business or start a mini revolution in an industry. Explore what it can do for you when you contact us today.

Disclaimer: Featured image of “History of San Francisco mural “Torchlight Procession” by Anton Refregier at Rincon Annex Post Office located near the Embarcadero at 101 Spear Street, San Francisco, California LCCN2013630301” is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain as it is a work of a Works Progress Administration employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the work of art itself is in the public domain. It is nonetheless attributed to the Carol M. Highsmith Archive collection at the Library of Congress. As far as the Library of Congress is concerned, there are no known copyright restrictions on the use of the image.