Feb 25, 2017 | By Julia

A team of ambitious young makers in Malaysia has completed a 17,000 square foot miniature wonderland, after 8 years of 3D printing. MinNature Malaysia can now officially count itself as Malaysia’s largest miniature exhibition.

Partners Alvin Wan Cheng Huat and Chan Chee Wing had zero experience in building miniature models when they started back in 2008, but let their love of buildings drive them. The duo was particularly interested in Europe’s increasing fascination with miniature wonderlands, inspiring Alvin and Chan to bring the concept to Malaysia for the first time.

“I don’t have an architecture background and I learned most of the work such as casting the plaster, wood work, and even wiring by myself. I can’t say it was an easy journey but it all paid off in the end,” says Alvin.

During the early stages of the project, Alvin and Chan worked day-long shifts simply learning to design and construct the 3D printed parts. Around the clock, each day was spent simply printing, which the pair says was the most time-consuming part of the whole ordeal.

This continued for several years, as their core team expanded to seven members. Finally, by summer of 2016, the team had grown to nearly 60.

team MinNature Malaysia

Like Alvin and Chan, most of the MinNature Malaysia team had no prior knowledge in the field. Over the years, the two project leaders abandoned their initial criteria for shortlisting candidates.

Alvin has since realized that creative people shouldn’t be judged by their credentials. Rather, “it’s their focus and determination to create that matter,” he says, noting that passion is its own driving force.

“The people here have that same drive and it pushes them to learn new things. They don’t question why they can’t do it, but ‘how can I do it?’ I give them all the parts and they will come up with the best idea,” Alvin explains. Nowadays, he’ll give anyone a try.

Two types of models make up the 12 sections of MinNature: models based on existing architecture and buildings in Malaysia, and models derived from the team’s imaginations. Alvin says the first type of model is considerably more difficult to design and 3D print, as the team must ensure all the real-life details are included and scaled correctly.

That means extensive planning is required before design work can even begin: team members must fulfill the necessary groundwork of actually visiting the physical buildings and photographing them before they can begin redrawing on the 3D modelling software.

After this is completed, files get sent to the MinNature’s 3D printers. A test print is always done to ensure that the correct scale has been achieved, says Alvin. Once everyone is satisfied with the prototype, the team continues printing the entire building.

the Thean Hou temple

Depending on the complexity of the model, each piece takes between 2 days and 3 months to complete. The hardest model was the Masjid Negara, which contained almost 1,300 parts and required work from 4 separate teams over the course of 3 months.

the Masjid Negara

After assembly, the joints are cleaned and smoothed out to prepare for painting and weathering. Finally, the electronics are added to light up the models, transforming all 17,000 square feet into a miniature Malaysian wonderland. The exhibition is mainly made of plastic, but also features real rocks and stones, as well as wood and wiring.

The meticulous and painstaking work means Alvin is always on the lookout for people willing to push their own limits. “They are here because they love the work and they don’t want to go home because they want to complete the details,” Alvin says of his dedicated team members, who sometimes stay working until two or three in the morning.

Even today, the project remains a steep learning curve for everyone involved. “We never grow out of new things to learn because we keep using new techniques and new ideas that we have never done before,” Alvin says proudly. “We do have a lot of failures, but we take all of these and make them [into] valuable lessons.”

The future of MinNature will present unique challenges to the team: soon their second phase of building will begin, which will include construction of an airport as well as Malaysia’s iconic twin towers.

Alvin explains that in the years ahead, his team will continue expanding, and plans to launch new phases. “I look for those who have the passion and drive to make these things into reality,” he says.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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