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Urban Cowboy: All babies are cute. Even mythological ones

The gryphon statue is one of the most popular photo destinations on U of G's campus
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2017-09-07 Urban Cowboy Gryphon close
This model of the Guelph Gryphon bronzed sculpture is small enough to hold in your hand. Photo by Alaina Osborne/SPARK.

“I want one of those!”

That’s the first thing almost everyone says when they see the mini-scale model of the Guelph Gryphon bronze statue, a digitally printed creation based on the five-metre tall bronzed original at the corner of Gordon Street and Stone Road.

The mini gryphon, which size-wise looks like an infant version of the original, sits comfortably in the palm of your hand and weighs mere ounces.

It was made this summer on a 3-D printer, from resin in the university’s digital haptic lab by students Emily Naccarato, Sondoce Wasfy, and design engineer John Phillips.

In a little over three years, the full-size gryphon has become a university and city icon, and the backdrop for almost countless selfies. But until the university’s vice-president of research Malcolm Campbell asked the lab to consider creating a scale model from a biocomposite material, the gryphon could only be captured in selfies.

It will be awhile yet before the model is a household item. Efforts are still underway to find the best production material and process to mass produce them.

But at least there’s a prototype to follow now, thanks to Naccarato, Wasfy and Phillips.

They created the model with a process called photogrammetry. Over five hours, the team took 250 different angles of the bronze statue, using a fixed-lens camera, a tripod and a homemade monopod for height, and a remote trigger.

“We started capturing small objects like those in the U of G sculpture park,” says Phillips. “We wanted to have our technique down before tackling the gryphon.”

2017-09-07 Urban Coyboy holding GryphonUniversity of Guelph students Sondoce Wasfy (left) and Emily Naccarato helped create the mini version of the giant Guelph Gryphon bronzed sculpture behind them. Photo by Alaina Osborne/SPARK.

Despite the work up, the team had onsite struggles. Phillips says the sun would throw shadows on the statue, which confuses the computer program.

And for pedestrians… well, the gryphon statue is one of the most popular photo destinations on campus, even when students are gone for the summer. So keeping the surrounding environment relatively free for five hours was a challenge.

Finally, when the 3D model was downloaded for printing, it took nearly 12 hours to print the whole sculpture. Then came the finishing touches, for two more hours: removing supports, sanding away imperfections and covering the model with a clear paint for shine and smoothness.

Vice-president Campbell is ecstatic with the resulting model, which resides in his office.

“This is simply wonderful,” he told Phillips, “and the compliments and coveting by all who have seen it have been incredible. Your team should be immensely proud, and commended, for your amazing work.”

Proving, once again, that all babies are cute – even mythological ones.