Miller 3D Replicates Smithsonian Artifacts with 3D Printing

With knowledge of the 3D printing and scanning capabilities of Miller 3D, Walter McConnell, an artist and Professor of ceramic arts at Alfred University, approached Miller 3D with a project – replicating historic sculpture collections for display in the world’s largest museum research complex – The Smithsonian Institute.

Miller 3D would oversee the manufacturing process for the sculptures displayed in Walter McConnell’s porcelain-based installation exhibition titled “Chinamania”.

“Chinamania” represents a time period when London became infatuated with blue-and-white porcelain artifacts as symbols of status – more than one hundred and fifty years ago.

Interestingly enough, the original vessels scanned are much older than “Chinamania”. Pat, the 3D Application Engineer who completed the project, adds that the “vessels are recreations of vessels that were made during China’s Kangxi period between 1662-1722”, which means the vessels are between 300 and 350 years old.

bluevesselDealing with historical artifacts can require a number of components. Pat states, from an engineering standpoint, there were a handful of steps implemented before the actual 3D printing began. “The Smithsonian took 3D photogrammetry of their Kangxi vessel collection. Walter then took the scans and corrected them for colors and shadows. He then sent the digital replicas to us where we scaled them all to 40% of their original size.”

From here, the 3D printing commenced, a process which Pat recalls was “fairly manually intensive.”

The reason for the manually intensive process is due to the importance of preserving detail and quality, as the replicas must adhere to the qualities of the original sculptures they are based upon.

“The printing process involves a powder that is solidified and colored layer by layer to form the net shape of a vase.” Pat adds. During the printing process, the vessels undergo their transformation into replicas of vessels that are nearly 350 years old.

Following the cleaning process using paintbrushes and sand paper, the vessels are dipped in a solvent, according to Pat is “much like super glue and makes the color pop”, completing the 3D printing process for the Kangxi vessel collection replicas.

The 3D printed sculptures are currently on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution. Miller 3D Printing is at the forefront of this revolutionary technology, utilizing seemingly limitless capabilities to design and manufacture vessels and sculptures for historical and educational purposes such as the “Chinamania” exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute.

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