Mar 13, 2018 | By Tess

High school students in Japan are learning how to use 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies to help preserve traditional culture through the replication of statues from Buddhist temples.

(Image: The Yomiuri Shimbun)

While ancient monuments and relics in some parts of the world are facing threat of destruction, Japan is facing a different preservation challenge with its own historical artefacts: theft. Between the years 2010 and 2011, for instance, about 160 Buddhist statues were stolen from the Japanese prefecture of Wakayama.

In an effort to help replace the missing statues and to prevent other sacred artefacts from being stolen, a group of students from the Wakayama Technical High School are producing 3D printed replicas of Buddhist statues.

The initiative is part of an Industrial Design course at the high school. This year, seven students in the class will be tasked with recreating four Buddhist statues using 3D scanning and printing. When the 3D printed Buddhas are complete, they will be given to local temples to replace the original statues.

In making the 3D printed statue replicas, the students have learnt how to 3D scan the original Buddhas and to study small details of the statues which might be missed by the scanning process. The data from the 3D scans is then transformed into a digital 3D model, which the students carefully analyze and tweak for the highest accuracy possible.

Once satisfied with the 3D models, the students proceed to 3D print the Buddha statue replicas and hand them off to students at the Wakayama University’s Faculty of Education’s art students for painting and finishing touches.

The idea is to use the 3D printed replicas as stand-ins for the original Buddhist statues which have been so attractive to thieves. The original statues can then be safeguarded at institutions such as the Wakayama Prefectural Museum while tourists and visitors still get to see what the relics look like in person.

Seiganto-ji temple in Wakayama prefecture

(Image: 663highland / Wikipedia)

The Wakayama Technical High School first began this preservation project in 2015, when students created a digital copy of an Aizen Myoo sculpture. Since then, the school has reportedly successfully created about 25 statue replicas.

Another notable bonus of using 3D printed Buddhist statues at temples is to allow people, and especially the visually impaired, to touch and interact with the relics.

This is not the only 3D printing preservation effort in Japan, however: researchers from the Chiba University have been using 3D scanning and printing to recreate Buddhist statues and other cultural artefacts. This particular project is not only meant to preserve the objects digitally in case of theft or deterioration, but is also being used to create special souvenirs that tourists can buy.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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