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3D Printing Seattle’s Marvel

3D Printing Perfect Replicas of Seattle’s Space Needle

FATHOM’s Seattle team partnered with the Seattle Space Needle to create massive scale replicas of the monument throughout its construction for the “Building a Marvel” Exhibit, launched in early April—definitely one of our favorite FDM projects to date this year.

The Space Needle was originally built without the aid of computers, so three comprehensive computer models were created from old blueprints, references, and photos, making them the most detailed digital representations of the Space Needle in existence. FATHOM took the CAD models for the three different stages of construction, created by Henk Dawson at d3d.com, and optimized them for 3D printing before production. A few facts about the process—

  • The full Space Needle model master file was split into nine vertical sections, 3D printed, then rejoined
  • Each pair of sections are joined with metal pins in the center and are glued together with epoxy
  • The total project was completed in 17 builds over 25 days and across three 3D printers
  • Together the three models took 827.8 cubic inches of ASA model material and 379.1 cubic inches of support material
  • The full Space Needle model reaches 77 inches tall, 18.5 inches in base diameter, and is comprised of 7,700+ vertical layers to reach its complete height

3D Printed Model SectionsWith more than a million visitors annually, there is a great public interest in the Space Needle and the World’s Fair that led to its creation. The three 3D printed models showcase three important stages during the Space Needle’s construction, and FATHOM hopes that they serve to educate the public on the architectural achievement aspect of the iconic landmark.

FATHOM sat down with Dave Mandapat, the Space Needle’s Director of PR, to discuss the newest exhibit at the Seattle Center, the series of 3D printed Space Needle models, and the landmark itself.

Seattle FATHOM OfficeHow many people typically visit the Space Needle in a year? How does the Space Needle embed in the Seattle community and culture?

More than one million people visit the Space Needle each year. We often try to partner with local businesses and organizations in the community that are striving to make Seattle (and the world) a better place.

What does a landmark like the Space Needle mean to the city and region of Seattle? To visitors of the area?

For a lot of people, the Space Needle is a symbol for the innovation and forward thinking that Seattle has become known for—music, entrepreneurship, art, engineering, technology.

Where is the 3D printed installation? How can the public see it?

The installation is on the Space Needle’s Pavilion level ramp as part of the new (and permanent) “Building a Marvel” exhibition. Observation Deck guests will see the models as they walk the ramp toward the elevators.

Seattle Space Needle Exhibit
Do the 3D printed models have a function besides being highly detailed replicas?

The models show the Space Needle in different stages during the 400 days that it took to build it.

What inspired the use of 3D printing? Were you aware that this is one of the largest 3D models ever created with this particular machine (Fortus technology)?

We were looking for the best way to make a replica model that could capture every detail of the Needle, a truly faithful recreation. The only technology that could deliver the precision we were looking for was 3D printing. We were really happy with how the final models turned out.

Three Space Needle model foundationsHow did you first hear about FATHOM, and how did you and the Space Needle become involved with the company?

After we decided 3D printing would be the best way to go, we looked for someone local that could get us what we wanted, fast. FATHOM’s Seattle office and production center is just across Lake Union from us, and the turnaround times they offered made it an easy choice.

Do you see 3D printed replication becoming more common for similar national landmarks? Would you recommend it for other similar projects?

3D scanning and 3D printing seem to be great for documenting any important object, monument, or just about anything three dimensional. I’ve heard about artifacts destroyed by ISIS being recreated based on 3D scanned data, which shows how valuable these technologies can be for preserving testaments of human achievement for historical record.


To learn more about the FATHOM’s advanced manufacturing production center in Seattle , check out this interview with General Manager Dylan Oliver. If you have a question about our services, use the contact form to start a conversation! FATHOM offers professional 3D printing services, plus CNC machining, urethane casting, rapid tooling, 3D printed tooling, injection molding, concept development, contract R&D services, and more.

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