Princess Power: Creating a Castle in the Clouds

The best part about creating a Magic Wheelchair build is watching the child and their family see that costume for the first time. When SOLIDWORKS presented Freyja’s costume, the newly crowned princess gasped and her eyes grew to the size of saucer plates. She and her mother burst into tears. They were overjoyed to see Freyja’s castle. Some of the build team members also got teary-eyed watching the family. They put countless hours into the castle build, and seeing Freyja’s reaction to her dreams coming true was incredibly special.

First sketch of Freyja’s costume

Freyja wanted her princess experience to be one-of-a-kind. Rather than dress as a princess from popular culture, she wanted to be the princess she knew she was inside of herself, but she did give the build team a ton of inspiration. Her favorite princess castle is from Disney’s Frozen. Freyja also wanted mermaids to be involved, and dragonflies, and stars, and rainbows, and the color pink, and cats, and much more. The breadth of her imagination and interests continually inspired the build team.

Left: Chinloo’s original castle drawing with inspiration from Disney’s Frozen. Right: Jordan’s costume sketch with ideas from the team incorporated

Everyone added their ideas for the costume in the team’s 3D Swym community, and concept artists Chinloo Lama and Jordan Tadic began the design work. Chinloo pulled from Elsa and Anna’s Arendelle’s Castle, and Jordan incorporated ideas from other teammates: adding a curved overhang to shelter Freyja inside the castle; building a drawbridge, which included characters and RFID readers that could control the lights, and so on.

Freyja uses a similar wheelchair to Ben’s, the kiddo from our previous build. Sal Lama was able to take the frame he designed for that build and, with minimal edits, reuse the design for Freyja’s costume. He and Albert Hernandez collaborated on the CAD for the castle design.

Top: The castle and grounds design in SOLIDWORKS. Bottom: The castle and grounds design in 3D Sculptor

Sal jumped on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and used 3D Sculptor to design the clouds and grounds for the castle. When the team gave him feedback and said the clouds looked a little flat, he went back and pushed and pulled the clouds—using Sub-D modeling, into their final rotund shape. For the grounds, Sal designed the basic shape with 3D Sculptor, and then David Law hand-carved the crags and texture into the final foam pieces.

Albert took the wheel in designing the castle itself using Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS. Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS is a role in the 3DEXPERIENCE Works portfolio that connects SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, allowing for collaboration and both online and local data management.

Albert made a base sketch and blocked out different parts of the castle. He began making rudimentary blocks, letting the castle take shape as he got into the details. Then he mirrored the castle to get an idea of how it would look and began working on the upper portions, which he also ended up mirroring. After he got down into the details, he merged all the pieces together and went through the process of slicing the castle, which resulted in 417 bodies.

Albert’s castle creation process

Sal and Albert were able to connect their designs and voila, Freyja’s castle was born! By using3D printing, laser cutting, and cutting foam with a CNC, the pieces of the castle came together. Due to restrictions from the pandemic, Sal ended up cutting the wood for the frame and foam pieces using his own CNC machine in his garage, and then hauled the castle pieces to the office in Waltham. Local team members who felt comfortable being around others using masks went to the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab to start putting the castle together.

Top left: Sal with his CNC machine. Top right: Comparing the real-life pieces to the original design. Bottom left: The frame and all of the cloud and ground pieces. Bottom right: The foam pieces magnetized and attached to the frame.

Once the foam pieces were glued together and the castle turrets were 3D-printed, it was time to detail. Magnets were added to the different castle and ground pieces so they would properly connect to the wooden frame and to each other. The castle was designed so it could be taken apart and put back together again, with easily removable back panels for Freyja to roll her wheelchair snugly inside of it and sit on her princess throne.

Top left: Chinloo painting on stone walls. Top right: A detailed view of the castle walls. Bottom left: Meaghan painting the clouds. Bottom right: Meaghan and Vincent painting in the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab

Chinloo then spent hours painstakingly painting on the stones for the castle’s stonewalls. Originally, the team played with 3D textures for the machining process. With so many large pieces, however, Chinloo felt like hand painting would give her more control and allow for less machining time. At first she was going to use a stencil for the stones and only paint them on the lower walls, but come on. This is the SOLIDWORKS Magic Wheelchair team. We always go over the top. Chinloo ended up dressed in a smock and in a zen mode, painting on hundreds (if not thousands) of different stones and then going back to highlight each of them, all over the castle: lower walls, upper walls, turrets, back, and front.

There was more painting for the grounds. Meaghan Murphy, DraftSight Marketing Manager, and Vincent Liu, Dassault Systemes Digital Marketing Intern, put on their artist hats and painted the castle grounds and clouds. They also had a blast painting Freyja’s cats (more on that in another blog), and Meaghan took home Freyja’s family shield to give it the paint job it deserved.

Left: Yun Li holds up both stained glass windows. Right: A window with lighting behind it.

SOLIDWORKS User Experience Design Specialist Yun Li added some more painted flair to the two large windows on the sides of the castle. She created two different “stained glass” mermaid designs. One mermaid is sitting on a rock and admiring a starfish, and the other is reaching out to Freyja’s star sign, Libra.

Chinloo used her own vinyl cutter at home to cut out the “lead” lines of the stained glass. The lines’ thickness went through a number of iterations so the cutter could slice through the material. Once the lines were ready, Yun Li stuck them to pieces of acrylic. She used watercolor markers to paint the “stained glass.” The starfish window was painted with bright blues and daytime colors, while the constellation window was painted to look like dusk, with deep purples and pinks. The team placed LED lights behind the two windows so it looked like candlelight was flickering inside the castle, bringing the stained glass effect to life.

Left: Annie’s fairy lights and pink bushes. Right: The completed castle, lit up.

Back down on the ground, Annie Cheung went into overdrive. She envisioned the perfect foliage for Freyja, pink bushes with fairy lights fluttering inside of them. To create these bushes, Annie took several yards of pink wire and twisted them into a bush shape. Then she stuck them into the foam around the castle and weaved tiny LED lights.

David placing the top turret on the castle. David is six feet tall; the castle is over seven feet tall.

When all was said and done and the castle itself was finally complete, its top turret stood over seven feet off the ground, and it had the turning radius of a small boat. That didn’t stop Freyja from zooming around at her costume reveal, chasing her sister and her friends, and doing donuts. From the tip of its pink turret to the frame’s wheels touching the ground, Freyja’s castle stood tall and proud, a collection of all the things that make Freyja her regal, rambunctious self.

The build team poured their hearts and souls into the castle—there’s more to come about the details, the dress, and, of course, the cats—but nothing beats seeing the beaming princess wipe away her tears of happiness and smile and laugh when placed inside a castle that was truly her own.

Top left: The full costume. Top right: Initial color study for the costume. Bottom left: The completed, painted, lit up castle. Bottom left: Princess Freyja, inside her castle and very excited.

Help support Magic Wheelchair and amazing kiddos like Freyja!

SOLIDWORKS is proud to help the non-profit Magic Wheelchair achieve its goal of providing kids in wheelchairs with epic costumes and experiences. SOLIDWORKS and the 3DEXPERIENCE Lab funded Freyja’s costume build in its entirety, but we invite our readers to support Magic Wheelchair in Freyja’s name! If you visit her page, you can donate directly to Magic Wheelchair and help support them all the lives it touches with its great work.

Freyja is no stranger to magic—every year she has a magical time in the mountains at Double H Ranch, a camp in the Adirondacks for children with serious medical conditions. Like Magic Wheelchair, Double H Ranch promotes inclusion. Inclusion is important to Freyja and her family, and you can see how happy the camp makes her in her bright smile at the top of their webpage. We encourage you to discover Double H Ranch and donate to it as well, to help kids like Freyja experience the fun that can be had at summer camp!

Learn more about Freyja here.

Read about our previous Magic Wheelchair builds here.

Sara Zuckerman

Sara Zuckerman

Sara Zuckerman is a Content Marketing Specialist in Brand Offer Marketing for SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS.