New Zealand city welcomes 12-meter-tall 3D printed sculpture

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After years in the making, a massive 12-meter 3D printed sculpture has finally been installed in Rotorua, New Zealand. The beautiful piece, which honors the region’s native Te Arawa history and culture, was designed by artists at the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute and was 3D printed in cooperation with local composites company Kilwell Fibretube.

The sculpture was air lifted to its new home at Rotorua’s Hemo Gorge by helicopters this past weekend and now stands out on the horizon, greeting motorists as they drive to and from the North Island city. The impressive Te Ahi Tupua structure, which is a contender for largest 3D printed sculpture in the world, was originally proposed in 2015.

Over the years, however, the project encountered some delays. For instance, in 2017, the sculpture’s initial stainless steel design was reconsidered because of weight concerns, and 3D printing presented itself as a better way forward. In the end, the project ended up costing nearly NZ$800,000.

New Zealand hemo gorge sculpture
3D printed sculpture being airlifted into place (Photo: Benn Bathgate | Stuff)

“It has been an incredibly complex, and also groundbreaking, project that has required a lot of innovation,” said Steve Chadwick, Mayor of Rotorua. “There have been challenges for both its construction and installation, but that’s because it’s something that has never been done before. I think it will provide a great entry piece that tells an important Te Arawa and Rotorua story, and I look forward to it becoming part of the local landscape and welcoming our manuhiri.”

The 3D printed sculpture had to be shipped in two separate pieces, which were assembled on site using a crane. According to Craig Wilson, CEO of Kilwell Fibretube, the project required nearly 16,500 hours of printing (nearly 700 days). The sculpture itself, which weighs about 3.8 tons, is an abstract representation of Te Arawa tohunga Ngātoroirangi, a high priest who brought the Māori people to Aotearoa (New Zealand).

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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