3D printing enters stage left

3D-scan of the original door handle for scaling down

At Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Centre (WAMIC), the technical team’s reach has spread far beyond industrial manufacturing and has entered into the arts – providing 3D printing services for an upcoming production at the Shaw Festival Theatre.

WAMIC’s expert team worked with 30-year veteran of Shaw Festival, Lesslie Tunmer, head of scenic construction, on a creative project for the production of Brigadoon, opening in May on the Festival Theatre stage. The hit musical is a love story set in a magical Scottish village.

Part of the set, explains Tunmer, includes the use of forced perspective to create an illusion of real space and involves 10 houses each decreasing in size on stage, ranging from 18-feet high to 1 ½-feet high. Each house facade is complete with chimneys, roofs, dormers, windows, flower boxes and Dutch doors. The challenge was designing and creating door handles, an item that is proportional to a human hand.

“So when you start dropping the door down to six or eight inches, you can’t have a regular door handle on it,” he says, adding if the handles were not scaled accordingly, it’s “surprising how your eye would catch it.”

In the WAMIC lab, the team of staff and students 3D-scanned the original door handle and then scaled it down to the various sizes with CAD software and then 3D-printed those handles.  

As for the benefit, Tunmer says while it would have been costly to have a carpenter carve the handles, more importantly, he could rely on the “consistency and repeatability.”

While there are live theatre companies which have in-house 3D printers for set creation, such as Stratford Festival Theatre, this was Shaw’s first experiment with 3D printing for the scenic construction (the art department commonly use this method when designing a smaller scale of the entire set).

“There are quite a few applications that I can see that could come down the road,” says Tunmer. “I think 3D printing will be one of those things that will sit in my toolbox and wait for the opportunity to do it again.”

The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team specializes in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing. Through the application of technical services, students are provided with real-world learning opportunities and experiences, while industry has access to leading-edge technology, and related services, for the development of products and manufacturing processes. For more information about technical services contact research lab technologist Dave Vuyk: [email protected]

For more information on the Centre, visit the website.