Jun 13, 2017 | By Benedict

German 3D printing company Concept Laser has made a 3D printed replica of the “Rider of Unlingen,” a 2,800-year-old bronze figure of a horse rider. The company is publicizing the project to demonstrate how 3D printing makes it possible “to utilize archeological discoveries in new ways.”

Spot the difference: 3D printed (above) and original (below) versions of the Rider of Unlingen

It’s hard to imagine a world, thousands of years ago, in which there were no 3D printers. Not even the simplest of RepRaps, nor the most rudimentary of 3D Systems SLA machines. It hardly bears thinking about.

There were, however, makers—of a sort.

We know this from the evidence: archeologists and historians spend their lives collecting and dating incredible manmade artifacts from bygone eras, using these physical objects to learn about ancient cultures.

Now that 3D printers do exist, researchers believe that additive manufacturing can actually benefit historical and archaeological studies of ancient manmade objects. Concept Laser, the German metal 3D printing specialist acquired last year by GE, recently demonstrated this fact by making a 3D printed replica of a unique artifact from the Hallstatt culture, the main Western and Central European culture of Early Iron Age Europe.

The object in question is the "Rider of Unlingen,” a bronze statuette of a rider on a horse with two heads—one at the front and one at the rear. Figurative depictions from the Hallstatt culture, which existed between the 8th and 6th centuries BC, are extremely rare in southern Germany, and the Rider of Unlingen represents one of the oldest depictions of a horse rider north of the Alps.

3D printing the Rider replica (twice) on the Concept Laser M2 cusing machine

The figurine, which was found in a Celtic chieftain's grave, is unique for being an early Celtic piece discovered in Central Europe.

Concept Laser recently used one of its M2 cusing machines to create a 3D printed replica of the Rider of Unlingen—not just for show, but to allow more researchers to get up close and personal with the rare artifact.

The replica (and others like it) will be presented at a two-museum exhibition intended to demonstrate the power of 3D printing in the field of cultural heritage.

“In the museum world, original specimens are grouped together in exhibitions, allowing them to be contrasted with comparable objects,” explained Nicole Ebinger-Rist, of the Baden-Württemberg State Office for the Preservation of Monuments on the regional board of Stuttgart, Germany.

“These comparative collections give exhibition visitors and scientific researchers insight in a historical context. A replica which is faithful to the original can be made accessible at museums in many different places around the world.

“Theoretically, it should even be possible to reconstruct heavily damaged objects in the future, which would give the object its original shape back. Essentially, we'd be able to erase the destructive traces of history from an object.”

Printing nears completion on the replica Rider

(Images: Concept Laser) 

Using X-ray computer tomography (CT), Concept Laser experts were able to 3D scan the original Rider, before using Volume Graphics' VG Studio Max 3.0 to create a printable 3D model of the figure. Because the Concept Laser M2 cusing 3D printer can print with a variety of metals, engineers were able to find a bronze alloy that actually closely resembled the material of the original Rider once printed.

Concept Laser says that “visually and tactilely, the reproduction horse rider is on par with the original piece.”

Ultimately, the company thinks that the entire 3D printing industry has a big role to play in cultural preservation. The replica of the Rider of Unlingen might be one of the more impressive 3D printed replicas we’ve seen, but it certainly won’t be the last.

“All of a sudden, you're holding an object from the 7th Century B.C.E. in your hands, except that it's made out of powder from the 21st Century,” Ebinger-Rist enthused. “You've got a cultural-historically relevant copy in your hands and are looking at 28 centuries gone by. It's simply overwhelming.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Gerd Schwaderer wrote at 6/16/2017 2:47:14 PM:

Unbelievable. A 2.800 year old metal figurine from the Celts, found in Unlingen. Later gotten famous as "PUSHMI-PULLYU" from Dr. Doolittle. Art and Engineering is a great combination. Where can I buy a replica?

Bob wrote at 6/13/2017 7:05:02 PM:

How come all the support

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