3D Printing an Ancient Artifact

3D printed 1.76 million year old hand axe

Courtney Link — the newest member of our Objex Unlimited finishing team — is no stranger to handling historical artifacts. Her past work in the cultural sector creating Artifact Reproductions involved duplicating irreplaceable pieces of history for use in hands-on events with the general public.

Producing these pieces in the traditional way means making multiple custom molds, waiting days for materials to set at each stage — not to mention the extreme care necessary for handle the originals.

Without 3D printing, it takes multiple custom molds to do this

But what if you could produce such artifacts without days of manual labour and waiting for materials to set? Now that Courtney works with our industrial 3D printers, she decided to try a faster way.

The first step was to choose an artifact. Museums and art galleries around the world have been working to digitize their collections, and some have been freely sharing the 3D scan files from that process.

Courtney chose a hand axe — or biface — from AfricanFossils.org, due to her experience replicating similar stone tools.

In this case, the downloadable 3D model has no colour information, so we 3D printed it in a gypsum powder material that was perfect for painting.

Viewing the 3D model before printing

The painting was done in two stages — a base layer for the general colouring, followed by a speckle layer to add detail. As you can see in this close-up, the results are spectacular:

Close-up of the painted surface

We’ve already done work with several museums, but with Courtney on the team we’re looking forward to doing even more! You can follow her on twitter at @CourtneyVLink.

If you’d like us to quote on your next 3D printing or 3D scanning project, please visit our website and click Get a Quote.

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