3D printed sculpture comes to Methuen | Merrimack Valley

METHUEN — “Plethora” is a sculpture, but also a symbol of things to come.

The steel figure of 17 feet in height that looks almost like an elephant was placed this week at Spicket Falls River Walk Park. It will remain there until October.

LuxMea, the Boston and Toronto-based technology firm that designed “Plethora,” describe it as the world’s largest 3D-printed steel construction and also the first large-scale public artwork created entirely with 3D printing.

Original artwork created in 2015 and brought to Methuen by China. It was then trapped in Shanghai during the pandemic.

“We were planning a whole tour,” said Jean Yang of LuxMea. “The first place was Shanghai, then New York and the UK. Then COVID hit, stopping everything.”

Yang first met Mayor Neil Perry two and a quarter years ago while visiting a friend near Methuen. She told him about the sculpture.

“He is very open-minded and he knows about 3D printing,” she said. “He said, I want it to first show up in my town.”

Perry, who plans to hold a public event for “Plethora” at some point, introduced the sculpture in his recent state of the city address as an attraction that will help to draw traffic to downtown Methuen.

“If you’re going to bring new people into your downtown and your community, it is important to give them places to eat, shop and be entertained,” Perry said. “While private industry will play a big role in providing those services, it’s also incumbent on the government to make Methuen as attractive a place as possible by inviting interesting and innovative opportunities.”

But there’s nothing casual about the ambitions embodied in this sculpture, which LuxMea created to represent what they call the “age of mass customization.”

Yang stated that the combination between advanced computer design and 3D printing has created a new era. It is changing the way that things are made and what people do with them.

“3D printing is not a new technology, but it’s a new application to the market,” she said.

Yang stated that traditional manufacturing is wasteful and relies on mass production in order to produce products people can afford. 3D printing is more efficient than traditional manufacturing because it uses less material and can make things that are better suited to specific situations and needs.

“In this process, there’s a way of being able to quickly customize the digital model of the products using an AI design aided process,” Yang said. “The second part is, you’re able to manufacture personalized items in a small quantity at an affordable price.”

The name, “Plethora,” means great abundance and refers to the many different areas where 3D printing can be applied.

LuxMea has used this process to produce personal items, such as eyeglasses and jewelry, as well medical instruments. It plans to use it for the production of housing.

In that sense, “Plethora” is a kind of architectural structure, Yang said, and shows that the firm can turn complex designs into real things.

“When we talk about building, when we talk about design, most people think it’s the look,” Yang said. “But actually in building design, the most important thing is the structure, the space.”

3D printing can create houses that are not only tailored to the needs of the people who live there but also fit into the surrounding environment.

“We can provide a lot of value in the housing market with what we’re trying to do,” Yang said.