Sep 5, 2016 | By Benedict

Marine biologist Drew Harvell and 3D printing company CADD Edge are using a Stratasys 3D printer to recreate a stunning collection of glass marine life sculptures, created over a century ago by father-and-son German glassblowers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.

For hundreds of years, the natural history community has used taxidermy as a means of preserving animals for exhibition purposes. Some find the embalming and stuffing technique a little unsettling, but taxidermy gives curious animal enthusiasts a chance to see creatures that they might otherwise never see. Unfortunately, preservation techniques like taxidermy haven’t always worked on all animals—while larger mammals and birds can be preserved in this way with relative ease, small underwater creatures, with no fur or feathers in sight, can be an entirely different proposition.

Over a century ago, a father-and-son glassblowing team perfected the art of highly realistic glass sculptures. Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, who lived and worked in Dresden, Germany, possessed an unmatched level of skill which enabled them to recreate living creatures, mostly marine creatures and plants, in painted or colored glass. Thousands of original Blaschkas are now kept in various museums in the northeastern United States, with the items of great interest to both biology and art fanatics.

An original Blaschka glass sculpture

Since the original Blaschkas are difficult to move around due to their fragility, marine biologist and Cornell professor Drew Harvell came up with an idea of how she could help share the Blaschkas’ work with a wider audience. By teaming up with Stratasys reseller CADD Edge, Harvell and co-worker Peter Fried devised a plan to completely digitize the Blaschkas collection using 3D scanning technology and create 3D printed replicas of the glass masterworks with a Stratasys J750 full-color 3D printer.

Stratasys J750 3D printer

The massive 3D printing operation is already underway, with the first test print being Blaschka model B-560, a 2-inch squid sculpture that is over 130 years old. Surprisingly, this first print required no touching-up between the scanning and printing stages. By using photogrammetry techniques and Agisoft Photoscan software, the group was able to obtain a VRML file of the geometry and color texture map, which could be sent straight to Stratasys' PolyJet Studio software to be 3D printed on the J750 in 14-micron layer resolution. No post-processing was required besides support structure removal.

“We knew the 3D imaging and printing of the Blaschka glass figures would be challenging,” said Harvell upon seeing the test print. “However, we have been very impressed with the vividness and quality of our first-cut prints from the Stratasys J750. We look forward to more 3D printing activity and hope these prints will help us grow awareness for these beautiful figures.”

3D printed recreation of B-560

Following the successful 3D printing of the Blaschka B-560, the team will now select several more items from the Cornell collection to print, and will even try 3D scanning with transparent and translucent effects for a higher level of detail and realism. Harvell’s quest to discover more about the creatures which inspired the Blaschkas has been documented in a film called Fragile Legacy.

3D printed recreation of B-560, close-up



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Mark wrote at 9/23/2016 9:28:51 PM:

Did I overlook the pricing info? How much is this?

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