Last Tuesday 12th August was World Elephant Day. Though it’s unlikely many of you did anything to mark the occasion, it has sparked what its organisers are calling the ‘world’s first 3D printed petition.’ As part of the ‘Get off the Elephant’s Back’ campaign, World Animal Protection is printing a life-sized replica of an elephant right in the middle of Europe’s fourth busiest airport: Schipol, Amsterdam.
The WAP wants to discourage Dutch people from riding elephants when holidaying in tourist destinations like Indonesia, Nepal, India and Thailand. An elephant-back trek through the jungle is a common part of many tourists’ visit to these hot-spots, though few of them realise just how terrible life is for the animals involved.
Most of these elephants are illegally caught and then forced to perform and be ridden for long hours, day and night. Chained up and regularly beaten by their captors, they live short lives of misery, discomfort and pain.
To highlight this barbaric industry to its target audience, WAP is running a petition on its website between now and the end of August. Each person who signs up makes a promise never to ride an elephant. For every signature the petition attracts, another part of the Schipol elephant will be printed, with the name of the signatory appearing on the body. If the target number of signatures is reached, a whole elephant will be sitting proudly in Schipol by August 31st.
To pull this off, WAP is teaming up with FHV BBDO, Ultimaker, Mini Vegas and Joris van Tubergen. Utilising five specially modified Ultimaker devices, the print will take place in a pop-up pavilion. Live progress can be followed on the WAP’s website, where, currently, 7,264 people have signed up.
Van Tubergen, noted Dutch designer, discusses the process:
With a regular 3D printer, it takes months to print such a large object. By printing with five of these printers simultaneously in high columns the print time can be drastically reduced. I am also very curious about the result. It’s the first time I make such a large print, not to mention an elephant!
The WAP’s Communication Advisor Maartje Maas explains how the printed elephant maintains a realistic look:
As soon as someone takes the pledge on our website, the printers receive a signal that they need to print a piece of the elephant. For the first 20,000 pledges the printer also printers their name on the elephant using a specially designed Elefont, which looks like the elephant’s skin wrinkles.