The Smithsonian Utilizes Recent Strides In 3D Technology

<p>The world&#8217;s largest museum and research institute undertakes one of their most ambitious projects to date.</p>

Back in early February, we declared 2012 the year 3D printing would hit the mainstream. The Smithsonian just took a step toward making that prediction a reality.

The Smithsonian, the world's largest museum and research institution, has embarked on an ambitious endeavor to share a lot more of their work with the world. The museum holds an overwhelming 137 million pieces in their archive, but is only capable of exhibiting approximately 2% to the public at any given time. Through the use of advanced 3D tools, the museum plans to digitally archive, replicate, and showcase a number of their most treasured works in galleries and exhibitions across the globe.

Photo by RedEye on Demand/Smithsonian

For this process, the museum will use a 3D scanner to retrieve each piece’s geometric measurements, which will be then be archived, while a 3D printer will be used to physically produce the structures. Though it is an intricate, lengthy process, the finished reproductions come out with remarkable accuracy.

To initiate the program, the Smithsonian is presenting their 3D printed replica of the featured statue of Thomas Jefferson, what they claim is the "largest 3D printed museum quality historical replica" ever created.

Photo by RedEye on Demand/Smithsonian

Adam Metallo and Vince Rossi, 3D digitization coordinators for the Smithsonian, are responsible for undertaking this massive project. They've already created the Thomas Jefferson statue mentioned above, and have high hopes that the initiative will lead to the circulation of both celebrated and lesser-known works. However, the costs are high and resources are sparse. Their efforts, though persevering, are futile without another major partner to contribute more assets. Additionally, due to the ephemeral traits of technology, the pair worry the data they collect and report will not be relevant in the future.

Photo by RedEye on Demand/Smithsonian

In spite of the challenges they face, the museum’s efforts to preserve a neglected area of the art world are commendable. Their innovative use of advanced technology has the potential to greatly increase awareness of their works, and we can't wait to see what pieces they replicate first.