Nov.13, 2014 | By Alec

While 3D printing technology is capable of producing gorgeous, futuristic and inspiring objects, even we here at enjoy the aesthetic beauty of handcrafted objects as well. Traditional craftsmanship tends to incorporate a personal level of excellence that is passed down from generation to generation, and is still largely beyond the grasp of many 3D printers.

You can therefore imagine our enthusiasm of finding out about Sumisaya, a gorgeous work of art that combines those age-old and inspiring production methods with the latest 3D printing technologies. For by reaching down 400 years of history of the Kansai region (around Kyoto), Japanese company Studio Shikumi and startup Kabuku have teamed up to create a breath-taking katana and case that are both ancient and modern at the same time.

How can you possibly achieve that? Well, by utilizing both manufacturing methods. The Sumisaya katana has been carefully made by craftsmen who've inherited centuries-old production methods.

As has been done for generations, its design focused on "Hamon", an elegant and distinct swerving line down the center of the sword, that, together with sharp cross sections, give the sword a tense, intimidating presence. Unlike 3D printing, this is a labour-intensive and time consuming project. It can take six or seven people to complete and can take up to two months. 'The process begins with an artisan who creates 'Hamatagane', a steel made from iron sand or black sand, then a black smith and artisan create 'Habaki,' a skirting board, and a knife grinder grinds it. After that, a person designs a case of a sword, and creates it.'

Really, there's just one problem with katanas like this, and 3D printing offered the perfect solution to that issue. For the level of artistic genius involved in producing those swords is generally hidden by the cases. That's why the production team behind Kabuku instead 3D printed a transparent case that properly reflects the intimate beauty of that katana. 'It provides a new way of katana appreciation'.

As Yasu, one of the industrial designers behind the Sumisaya project explained to, 3D printing offered a perfect, efficient and satisfying method of capturing that age old beauty. They were able to print this transparent case in acrylic resin using one of the latest 3D printers from Stratasys, the Objet500 Connex3. All in all, the project took about two months to complete, from concept to product. 'The project went very smooth and quick, thanks to the supportive craftsmen and latest digital technologies.'

The actual manufacturing process, consisting of the printing, post-manufacturing, polishing and painting, was even more efficient, taking less than a week. To achieve that high level of transparency, they did have to apply three rounds of meticulous polishing, but the result has clearly been worth it.

If you'd like to see this beautiful katana and its 3D printed case in person, and you happen to be in the Tokyo area, then here's some great news: the entire product will be exhibited at the BATSU ART GALLERY at Omotesando, Tokyo on November 16, 2014. However, this exhibition will only be open to the public for one day, so don‎'t miss it.

But for those of us outside of Tokyo and Japan, don't worry. The product will also go on sale on Rinkak, which can perhaps best be interpreted as the Japanese version of Shapeways. Designers can register and upload their 3D models to its cloud, upon which Rinkak's printing service will realize the product and sell it through its marketplace.

Both 3D printed products, 3D printable data and 3D printing services are thus available there, which will – starting November 16th – include the 3D printable files for this gorgeous katana sword case as well.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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