With 12 new productions on the main stage, numerous recaptures, concerts, recitals, a wide range of youth programs and more than 300 performances a year, the Zurich Opera House is the largest cultural institution in Switzerland and one of the most productive ones in Europe. For the events, there are various workshops and studios, in which the detailed decorations and costumes are painstakingly and lovingly made. The x400 3D printer from German RepRap is perfectly supporting the creation process. The Swiss reseller KVT-Fastening assisted the Zurich Opera House on location in Switzerland.
The field of application of additive manufacturing technology is manifold – in the case of the Zurich opera house the technology is used especially for the production of props and for mold making. "Often, the wishes and ideas of costume and stage designers are very diverse and sometimes extraordinary," says Andreas Gatzka, director of theater sculpture at the Zurich Opera House, "it often happens that props are not available in the way designers have it in their minds. This is where the 3D printer is perfect for."
First, the objects are designed in 3D modelling programs and then they get printed with the German RepRap machine. Before they are ready for the stage the objects get further processed, for example, flocked, painted or pasted. Another application example is the figure of the sugar fairy in the ballet of "The Nutcracker", where the 3D printer was used for mold making.
In a first step, the cups were created in a 3D modelling program. In order to find out the ideal construction method, different versions and shapes with different proportions were tested. These cups were then produced with the German RepRap x400 and thus served as a master mold for the production of silicone negatives. With these in turn, the cups were made of temperature-resistant cast resin as thermoforming tools. The final cups were deep-drawn with very thin and therefore lighter polystyrene foil.
The question of how the Zurich Opera House came to its own 3D printer, Mr. Gatzka answered with a smile: "Through curiosity, interest and fascination! We have been using the technology itself for a few years now. But we always had external suppliers for that." With its own 3D printer, the opera house can be even more flexible and creative. This saves costs and time through the shorter processes. Gatzka sees further advantages: "The technology brings a lot of benefits. Special wishes of stage and costume designers can be realized quickly as well as short-term changes of objects, for example larger, smaller, longer or shorter." Florian Bautz, Managing Director of German RepRap GmbH, is pleased about satisfied customers: "It's great in how many areas our machines are already used. The trend is definitely pro implementing the additive manufacturing process. The technology offers many benefits, such as the possibility to reduce weight and create complex structures, or to increase mold flexibility and shorten production cycles. Another advantage that you can also see in this project is that individual productions now pay off. In conventional production, a single item costs a lot and doesn’t pay off until it can be produced by thousands in mass production."
In terms of materials, the opera house currently relies on PLA, as it is well suited for beginners and easy to handle. The great variety of colours and effects plays an important role. In addition, it is flame retardant, which is very important in the theatre area. The finished printed PLA product can also be edited very well. "For the future we would like to use other materials, e.g. ABS, PET-G, nylon or elastic filaments," says Mr. Gatzka.
Severin Struck, Sales Engineer at KVT-Fastening, assisted the Zurich Opera House to find the optimal 3D printing machine: "I was able to support Mr. Gatzka in his project. Through our position as a Additive Manufacturing Center, KVT-Fastening offers, among other things, 3D printing machines from various manufacturers. At the Zurich Opera House it was clear that the German RepRap x400 with the FFF method is the right machine for their application. In addition to 3D printers, KVT-Fastening's Additive Manufacturing Center also offers products such as materials, accessories, software and services. We can assist customers from the design stage to parts manufacturing and advise them on the choice of equipment and associated manufacturing technologies. This enables us to offer our customers a complete solution perfectly tailored to their needs. So it was a pleasure for me to assist the opera house with advice, commissioning, training and maintenance contracts."
Mr. Gatzka reports: "I've been googling for a 3D printer that has a print room that roughly allows the printing of a human head with both shoulders. So I read about the x400 of German RepRap. During the tour of the x400 at the booth of KVT-Fastening, at the AM Expo in Lucerne, the machine made a very good impression on me, which was confirmed by internet research (reviews) and a visit to the reseller, the KVT-Fastening. Other criteria were two printheads, which allows printing with separate support material and generally a wide variety of materials." With the German RepRap customers benefit from an open material platform, which means that already tested materials have been approved and other materials can also be tested. "The x400 is very compact and robust. It totally fits in our studio! It was also very important for us to have a contact person (and not just a salesman) in Switzerland, which is the case with the German RepRap reseller, KVT-Fastening. And we are super happy!"
Currently, the x400 3D printer is already successfully used in several applications. Furthermore the opera house is already thinking about additional projects where the 3D printer can lead to new opportunities and benefits.
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