- Associated Press - Saturday, April 22, 2017

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - During the Roaring ‘20s, high-end light fixtures once dotted the streetscapes in Uptown Butte.

Now ghosts of lamp posts past are re-emerging at Lexington Gardens - and slick new 3-dimensional technology plays a big role.

A theft forced a modern twist on one of the antique light fixtures that will eventually sit atop the decorative posts that, from the right spot, perfectly frame the Highlands Mountains in the far-off distance to the south.

About two years ago, thieves took off with an anodized pot metal light fixture before Lexington master gardener Norm DeNeal and crew could hoist it up to one of the two towering lamp posts at the garden.

“The lamp posts were sitting on the ground sideways,” said DeNeal. “There was a fair amount of vandalism.”



The thinner lamp posts bookend two seemingly out-of-place white Egyptian obelisks, but thanks to a Highlands College student’s dexterity with 3-D design, a replica of the 20-inch tall fixture will soon adorn and light the top of one of the outer lamp posts.

Drafting technology major Jeremy Hankel, 20, spent 36 hours working a SolidWorks computer program designing such a replica. Former instructor Allen Hanson suggested the extra credit project in his inventor class last spring.

Hankel said he was inspired by the difficulty of the project.

“I had no drawings to work from - just the light fixture itself,” said Hankel, who already had two years of drafting under his belt at Hamilton High School before starting college.

“It’s called reverse engineering. You take any measurements you can to try to reproduce the model the best that you can.”

The 3-D printer - a hit when Highlands College debuted three models three years ago under Hanson’s supervision - is the big star.

Still, Hankel said it took 36 hours for the replicator to generate a plastic reproduction of the faux bronze Art Deco light fixture, or “collar.” Each of the thousands of layers required is only 0.22 millimeters thick.

“It’s about 10 percent honeycomb pattern,” said Hankel. “On the inside, it helps it keep its integrity so it doesn’t break.”

The piece is comprised of four sections that are connected, Lego-like. DeNeal and his gardeners plan to paint it and spruce it up before topping the post. The other original pot metal fixture - one of only about four left from old-time Butte - will adorn its sister post.

The light fixtures were once all the rage, but the Cutter Company quit building them in 1929.

“Those things are irreplaceable,” said DeNeal. “They just don’t make ‘em anymore. We looked all over for them at the recycled places; they didn’t turn up for 100 miles, anyway.”

So the only way to replace the piece was via a 3-D printer.

“Eventually, the lamp posts were removed (from around town), and a few were sold to private parties,” said DeNeal, a Butte native, woodworker, and landscape visionary who attended Gonzaga University and Cambridge University in England.

At any rate, the bird’s-eye view from Lexington is an original - like much of Butte’s revered architecture. A long, copper-painted park bench and picnic tables provide a strong vantage point.

“If you sit here, the obelisks form the best view of the city,” DeNeal added. “The two lamp posts at Old Lexington Gardens were donated by Myrna and Ed Leipheimer of Butte in 2014.”

Becky Morris, Highlands drafting instructor, praised Hankel’s skill set using the SolidWorks software and printer.

“For him to create a replacement part for this Victorian lamp shade is incredible - and Jeremy has done an incredible job replicating it,” she said.

“There’s many different uses, but you really don’t know an application for it until it presents itself.”

Highlands now has a dozen 3-D printers - and Morris said all manufacturers use the technology. Students learn transferable design skills that they can use in other industries: engineering, welding, architecture, and construction.

Hankel admitted the project challenged him.

“It was trial and error, redesigning certain aspects that I felt could have been kind of streamlined or redrawn in a better way,” he said. “I made little changes to make it a little more accurate to the original.”

A soon-to-be Montana Tech graduate, Hankel landed his first job over spring break. He will work as a designer/drafter for a Missoula manufacturing company that makes swimming pool parts like handicapped-accessible lifts.

When asked if his extra credit lamp project helped him land the job, he smiled and said, “I would like to think so.”

___

Information from: The Montana Standard, https://www.mtstandard.com

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