Dec 2, 2015 | By Tess

When Canadian art collector James Koyanagi brought in one of his pieces, a damaged Neolithic Jomon vase, to be fixed by a pottery expert he certainly did not expect to leave with a 3D printed replica of the same vase!

The vase, which Koyanagi noticed was missing a piece, dates back to 4,000 BCE and is from the Japanese Neolithic period also known as the Jomon period. Pottery from the extensive Jomon period is notable for its coil technique. That is, Jomon pots were made without the use of a pottery wheel and were handmade by means of layering coils of soft clay, an early-early form of additive manufacturing, you could say.

Mohawk College's AMRC

Koyanagi, who lives in Burlington, Ontario, but who spent over 10 years in Japan collecting ancient pottery, brought the vase to pottery expert Reid Flock who works at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario to see if he could fix it. Flock, who was interested in the project, took it upon himself to get in contact with Mohawk College’s recently founded Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre (AMRC) to see if they could collaborate.

Robert Gerritsen, a professor in mechanical engineering as well as the coordinator and lead faculty researcher at the AMRC, was initially apprehensive as the centre had put most of its focus on 3D scanning and printing industrial and mechanical parts, and didn’t have much experience in additively manufacturing art replicas. Ultimately, though, Gerritsen and his AMRC team were up for the challenge.

To get the best results, the vase was brought to the Mississauga Hospital in Ontario, where a brand new state-of-the-art CT scanner had just been installed, a Siemens SOMATOM Definition Flash CT. Rather than use the in house 3D scanners at the AMRC, the vase was put through the CT scanner to effectively generate the most detailed and accurate 3D digital model possible, from the inside and out.

From there a prototype was 3D printed using the plastic Nylon 12 material and selective laser sintering, which the researchers admitted to dropping on the ground a few times to see the vase replica bounce to the floor rather than smash.

The final Jomon vase replica was recently presented on December 1st, 2015 at Mohawk College and was reportedly nearly identical to the original clay vase both in look and in feel. Gerritsen explains, “Blindfolded, you’d be tough to tell which one you held.”

Koyanagi, who was shown an early prototype of the 3D printed vase replica hopes that the Mohawk College Additive Manufacturing Resource Centre will be able to 3D print him a piece to help fix the broken clay vase using the state of the art technology.

For Gerritsen and the AMRC at Mohawk College the experience has been an exciting one and has opened up the doors for more artefact-based projects. “We’ve hardly started to explore all the opportunities,” says Gerritsen. “Perhaps we can do this with fossils. It’s definitely an area we want to explore further.”

Reid Flock added, “To our knowledge, no one has CT scanned a Neolithic Jomon piece in its entirety and had it 3D sintered. As you can imagine, the applications with this are far reaching. Conservation and restoration efforts, study collections, and artistic possibilities within the ceramics field will greatly benefit from our research.”

We’ve seen 3D printing technologies being used before to create replicas of ancient statues, and even elements of architecture, and it is impossible to deny that the ability to recreate tangible art pieces could change the nature of museum-going in a big way, allowing for more tactile encounters and a whole new appreciation for the art pieces.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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