Transformit Gorham, ME

Project Details

Fabric 1

Producer: Fisher Textiles
Supplier: Fisher Textiles

Engineer Name 1
Tom Chabot

Engineer Company 1

Design Company
National Geographic Society

Fabrication Company

Graphics Company
Grand Image

Please describe the project specifications

The passion of Zeb Hogan, host of National Geographic Live’s Monster Fish television series, has inspired a new traveling exhibition, -Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants-.
While most of the exhibition's fish are sculpted in traditional materials, the giant freshwater sting ray was specified as a lightweight tension fabric sculpture, because of its sheer size (8’ x 15’) and the need to suspend it overhead.

What was the purpose of this project? What did the client request?

National Geographic’s exhibition designers asked us to model and fabricate a full-size -himantura polylepis-, but did not want it to weigh 1,300 lb as an actual giant stingray of that size might! National Geographic designers provided sketches of the desired “pose”, and asked us to make a lightweight, transportable replica that would last for years, and that could be installed and dismantled by the exhibition’s staff.

What is unique or complex about the project?

Using the sketches provided, and internet photos of giant stingrays, our design team created a 3-dimensional computer model that respected the subtle curves of the ray.
The 3d model was then used to create the drawings of the internal frame structure. Patterns were made made of the numerous fabric panels required to make the stingray’s fabric “skin”. Prior to printing, the pattern was proven by making a full-size mockup of the skin. Graphic templates were made and sent to National Geographic, who positioned the skin’s graphics on the templates. The stingray’s skin images were printed by dye sublimation onto stretch fabric. The final step was to stitch together the skin’s panels so all graphics matched up nicely. A mistake anywhere on this complex 3-d structure would show on the final product.

What were the results of the project?

The exhibition opened in March of 2015 to very positive reviews by National Geographic Society staff, and Zeb Hogan himself, who spoke at the opening party, and in a formal lecture at the National Geographic Museum.

Exhibition staff were able to assemble and install the sculpture without difficulty, and have since dismantled and reinstalled the exhibition at the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum in Reno, NV.

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