Feb. 13, 2015 | By Alec

Who would’ve thought that 3D printing technology could be used by museums and historians? Who would’ve guessed that a 3D printer could be used to preserve and protect precious and ancient artifacts? Well its increasingly being used to do just that. Just recently, we’ve seen how the Bashkir tribe of Central Russia resorted to 3D printing to preserve its centuries-old distinctive dress, while now a Norwegian teacher and game developer has teamed up with a museum to make accurate reproductions of Viking artifacts.

The man in question is Nils Anderssen, who has been very interested in 3D printing and in historical artifacts for years now. When first getting acquainted with 3D printing, he quickly realized that this technology would be perfect for recreating historical artifacts. Instead of being kept behind glass, these could be touched, felt and fully experienced.

The original.

After making a few examples and posting photos of them on his website, he caught the attention of the National Museum of Art in Norway, that has an extensive collection of Viking and medieval artifacts. The museum asked him to create a 3D replica of sword from Snartemo, an ancient piece from the Migration period of Northern European history (4th to 6th century AD). The goal: to completely recreate the look and feel of the original, that could give visitors a perfect idea of what such a sword is like.

Now the design portion of the project was relatively straightforward. By relying on photographs and measurements of the original sword, Nils was able to create a 3D model in 3D Studio Max using traditional polygon modeling techniques. As he explained in a blog post, he has a lot of experience with that software. "In 3D Studio Max, I have good control over the thickness and size of the patterns and therefore avoided problems in printing. Also, there are lot of sharp edges that are easy to do in 3D Studio Max."

The 3D designs.

To lower guard of the sword, as you can see above, is covered in a repeating pattern of strips, which was also relatively easy to do. "For this project I almost exclusively used the basic features of the polygon modeling tools, namely the subdivide modifier and a little bit of the material editor (to add the picture to the background)," he says. For everyone willing to work with this software, he adds: "I suggest that when trying to learn the software, only focus on the bits you need to use and ignore the rest. When you become comfortable with the tools, expand and experiment with the other features bit by bit."

The parts were 3D printed in bronze and then polished and gilded.

But of course a plastic sword doesn’t exactly wow museum visitors anymore, so it needed to be 3D printed in bronze, just like the original. Nils therefore teamed up with Belgian 3D printer service provider i.Materilise. As he wrote on their website, "I decided on this after a quick test print where all the details came out flawlessly and the prints were delivered on time: an important aspect when working with a tight deadline. The maximum printing size is also higher than most other companies, which made this project possible."

After getting all the separate pieces from i.materialise, Nils cleaned all of them up and assembled them. The complex hilt has been printed in bronze and is hollow (can be filled with pieces of wood), to ensure its easy to assemble and stable to hold. After assembly, the blade was also gilded and polished, to ensure for a maximum wow-factor.

The original and the 3D printed replica side-by-side.

As you can see above, the results are absolutely stunning and closely resembles the original as it would’ve looked centuries ago. Nils was also very happy with the results: "The whole project has been very interesting both as a learning experience and also to be able to use processes I already knew, but with more complexity. In contrast to the digital work on screens, this is something you can pick up, look at and use. This is something I find very rewarding." I’m sure museum visitors everywhere agree. Nothing would make children more enthusiastic about history than placing an accurate 3D printed replica in their hands.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Heddy wrote at 2/15/2015 2:25:10 AM:

The London museum used 3d printing in a similar way.

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