Some of the ancient artefacts modelled by Kendal Museum

3D printing allows hands-on approach to ancient artefacts

Kendal Museum in Cumbria, UK is to offer schoolchildren the chance to handle ancient Egyptian pottery and statues. The museum has no concerns about people breaking the fragile 3,000-year-old objects because they will all be 3D-printed replicas.

The 3D models were printed by engineers at Lancaster University as part of a project aiming to make historical artefacts more accessible to visitors.

Morag Clement, the archaeology curator at Kendal Museum in Cumbria said: “These Ancient Egyptian items are so rare that normally we don’t let anybody touch them. With these copies, people can pick them up, touch and interact with them instead of just viewing them behind glass. We can also put them into loan boxes sent out to schools to teach the children about history.”

The technique could also be used to aid in the digital restoration of broken antiquities.

The replicas were created by PhD student John Kaufman and Dr Allan Rennie from the Department of Engineering at Lancaster.

John Kaufman painstakingly photographed every object from 360 degrees.

Kaufman said: “Normally this would be done with a laser scanner, but as part of my research I used a much cheaper digital camera to see if I could make this method more accessible.

“This is a great attraction, as with a little training the museum’s own staff will be able to replicate many of the objects on display.”

Up to 150 photos of each object were digitally stitched together to create a 3D virtual image of the original.

This virtual image was then used to print out the 3D replica layer by layer using Additive Manufacturing equipment at Lancaster University.

The research was presented at the ASME Engineering Systems and Design Analysis Conference in Copenhagen on June 25-27 2014.

Further information

E&T video: Extreme 3D printing

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