May 17, 2017 | By David

Visitors to the National Museum in Poznan, Poland, will soon be able to better appreciate the country’s history with the help of some of the most up to date, cutting-edge technology.  3D printing was used to make an accurate replica of an incredibly valuable 16th century rifle, after the museum reached out to 3D printing experts Get Models Now.

The original antique rifle is kept in a glass case by curators of the National Museum, as it is a fragile object that wouldn’t be able to cope with thousands of hands picking it up and playing around with it on a daily basis. However, not being able to hold the war gun means that visitors are being a little short-changed on their historical education, as they can’t get a feel for what it would be like to carry or use the rifle.

The tactility of the materials and especially the rifle’s weight are things that would greatly add to the experience of the exhibit, so the museum decided to install an interactive model of the original object. Get Models Now was commissioned to replicate the rifle as faithfully as possible using 3D printing technology.

Get Models Now is a Polish 3D printing agency that prides itself on how eco-friendly its methods and materials are. Its filament range is mostly organically sourced, and it has at least six filaments that are specifically made to be recyclable or bio-degradable. The company already had some experience in copying antique guns, having 3D printed an amazing replica of a pistol from the 18th century, based on a free 3D model obtained from Thingiverse.

Equipped with an Artec 3D scanner, the company was given access to the museum’s rifle in order to capture a detailed scan, which was then sliced up ready to be 3D printed. A ZMorph 2.0 SX Multitool desktop 3D printer was used, before extensive post-production touches were added by Get Models Now artists.

The ZMorph machine's interchangeable tool head and material versatility made it perfect for this multi-part FDM process. The Get Models Now team made use of regular PLA filament as well as WoodFill, a PLA variant that contains wood particles. This filament allowed for the part of the rifle that was originally made from natural wood to be copied more accurately, giving the barrel a similar surface finish that was improved even further by detailed painting by hand. Various hand-painted ornaments were also added, replicating the originals to a very high degree of precision. The weight of the original rifle, which is around 5.2 kg, was simulated by joining all the 3D printed parts together around a heavy rod made of lead.

The final result is impressive, and it is very difficult to point out the real antique from the replica at first glance. Engravings around the trigger and the carving of the barrel are reproduced meticulously, as is the dragon-shaped flintlock. When the interactive model goes on display alongside the original, which it is due to do sometime in the near future, visitors to the museum will be blown away (but not literally as the weapon is only ornamental).

Despite the long hours that went into painstakingly reproducing various details of the rifle, materials for the replica were relatively cheap, and the 3D printer used was a desktop machine, not a high-end industrial one. This 3D printed marvel shows great promise for the future of institutions like the National Museum in Poznan and for history educators in general, as they will be able to give a more hands-on experience that will hopefully make learning about the past more appealing. 3D printing technology’s ability to replicate objects should only continue to improve, so the tactility of old times will become more and more accessible to hands in the present.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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