The Smithsonian. The Forbidden City of Beijing. You hear these names and perhaps you think of crowds of visitors and old, dusty relics. Oh, and getting completely lost (those museum maps are impossible.) Well, what else do these two places have in common? 3D scanning and 3D printing.

Printing History

The Smithsonian has been digitizing their body of work to eventually hold its entire collection in virtual museums. With the help Studio EIS and Stratasys’s RedEye Service, they’ve used 3D printing to create replicas of parts of the collection. You can already view some of their virtual exhibits online. Take this a step further and imagine downloading your favorites and printing them? Then you too could make your own DIY museum exhibits – a private collection of sorts – for your friends, children or family. Perhaps your very own Robotic Abraham Lincoln?

As it turns out, this use of 3D scanning and printing is a boon for natural history museums. A team of mechanical engineers from Drexel University with the help of palaeontologists have been working on a project to study how dinosaurs moved by scanning and printing the bones. Do they run? Or trot? Or perhaps pirouette? The project is in its early stages, but in a few years they hope to have a fully functioning robot dinosaur. Fools! WHAT IF THEY ESCAPE?

3D scanning and printing relics for museum pieces is all fine and dandy, but what if your relic is… a building? The Forbidden City was once the home of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Now it’s the political and cultural centre of China. It’s also getting a little ragged around the edges. So, the Chinese government and a research team from Loughborough University have partnered up to print roof and other parts to replace various portions of the crumbling edifices within the city. This is no ordinary 3D printer they’re using. It utilizes a concrete slurry as its printing material (I for one, can’t wait to see what comes out.)

Intro Image: Redeye