What’s the most extraordinary 3D printed project you’ve ever seen? We run into fantastic creations quite frequently, but every so often one of them is bound to leave a lasting impression. Such was the case with Kurt Wendt’s BIG Dragon, a fiercely ambitious 3D printed sculpture that’s been taking New York’s 3D printing scene by storm.
Meet the maker: Kurt Wendt
Kurt is a freelance prototyper with 20 years of experience in database systems programming and 3D modeling. He has taught 3D modeling classes on a part-time basis for nearly a decade, working for universities like the Pratt Institute and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Kurt’s prototyping career started in early 2011, when he came up with an idea for a new board game. He produced the game in 3D CG and started looking for a prototyping service. “I considered Shapeways but the game required a large quantity of pieces, so the costs were a big setback. At that point, I had already heard about MakerBot. I looked into it further and found that buying a CupCake 3D Printer would be a much more feasible option. By the Fall of 2011, I had become completely immersed in the world of 3D Printing,” says Kurt.
For Kurt, 3D printing was the perfect mix between his programming experience and his more artistic 3D CG background. The more he got involved, the more he came to appreciate 3D printing as a truly revolutionary technology that he wanted to use and be a part of.
In 2012, Kurt applied to join the World Maker Faire. After getting accepted into the Faire, he decided that the best way to stand out would be to push the limits of what had been printed on a MakerBot CupCake. By then, the printer was already considered “low-tech,” with other, more sophisticated systems readily available in the market. His dragon proved to be the perfect project for the challenge.
A feat of epic proportions
Kurt’s dragon is a 4.5 feet long structure made up of over 250 pieces. Each part was printed with ABS and “welded” together using acetone. “There was no glue involved,” Kurt emphasizes. “The project took hundreds of hours in printing time, development, design, assembly and finishing - not to mention the clean up.”
Kurt designed and printed everything himself. “I had to produce as much as possible in 30 days,” says Kurt. “The body was the largest part of the dragon, so I designed that before anything else. Small items like the dragon’s scales came next. Unlike regular 3D Animation, where you can design the texture of an object based on an image, for 3D printing, the texture needs to be physical and real. So I actually wrote a database program that generated a Maxscript to select thousands of polygons. Once selected, I pushed them inwards. Then, I wrote more program code to select thousands of more polygons - and after selecting them, I scaled them down. That’s how I tackled the challenge posed by the scales.”
Once the scales were done, Kurt started printing the body in several parts. Details like the dragon’s teeth were printed together as a set and then individually assembled into the mouth. Another interesting fact is that the dragon’s mouth and spikes were not colored with traditional paint but with a liquid Kurt created by putting plastic pieces in a jar with acetone.
“Looking back, it felt like I was printing at a furious pace, running the printer like a factory almost 24 hours a day,” says Kurt. “In the end, I produced the body and the head just in time for the Faire and I printed the last main head piece and the horns during the event itself.”
Kurt’s dragon has been on display at the World Maker Faire in NY for 2 consecutive years. His work has also been shown at the NYC 3D Printer Expo and the Inside 3D Printing Show, which took place last week. These days, Kurt is working on bringing several products of his own design into the market. He’s also considering doubling the size of the dragon from 4.5 to 9 feet in length and enhancing it with some special upgrades, like vapor-exuding nostrils and a moving mouth and tongue.
Visit Kurt’s Hub or follow him on Twitter to stay tuned, he is looking for some help for his next big project!