Incredibly Unique 3D Printed Digital Terracotta Army to Emphasize the Human Costs of War

Share this Article

ter33D printing meets political consciousness-raising in a sculpture project by Cambridge University graduate student, Leo Impett. The tech-savvy Impett, who moonlights as “a computer-vision researcher for Microsoft,” is engaging the public in his project, The Digital Terracotta Army, to emphasize the necessity of empathy in the context of ongoing military conflicts across the globe.

The project derives its name from the well-known Terracotta Warriors representing the army (and horses as well as other figures such as musicians, acrobats, and strongmen) of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. Considered funerary art, the figures, which date to the late third century BCE, have been systematically excavated in the Emperor’s necropolis after their discovery by a farmer in 1974. They are staggering in numbers alone, with upwards of 8,000 soldiers, 520 horses associated with 130 chariots, and the other figures mentioned above.

Impett’s Digital Terracotta Army, while comparably vast, will be much smaller in scale. Whereas the original Terracotta Army included figures with distinctive facial features, it has been concluded that there were only eight variations–clay masks applied to heads and molded with additional clay to create individuality.

The Cambridge grad student-sculptor has conceived of a more extensive process for individualizing his figures: He has appealed to the public, via a Kickstarter project, to submit webcam photos of themselves, using an “html web app” that he provides. He explains, “We make your 2D photo into a 3D model of your face, using sophisticated computer graphics. We use this model to ‘graft’ your face onto the 3D model of a toy soldier.”

3D Models of the Digital Army

3D Models of the Digital Army

The “toy soldiers” populate Impett’s Digital Terracotta Army, a misnomer to the extent that his figures will not actually be produced using terracotta. The individual soldiers or “warriors” that comprise the ranks of these miniscule armies, not solely real-life military personnel, but they are also representative of the so-called “casualties” of contemporary military conflicts around the world. With one such grouping, says Impett, “we tell the story of the Israel-Palestine conflict, in 2014 only, in terms of the number of deaths. Here, each toy soldier represents not one, but ten deaths. There are 102 soldiers in black, for one-tenth of the military deaths. 164 soldiers are in red, these are a tenth of adult civilians.” To further emphasize the costs of war to civilian populations, the sculptor notes, “58 of them are in white–these are one-tenth of the children who’ve died so far in the conflict this year.”

After being 3D printed, the figures are arranged in a grid on a base, something like pieces on a chess board, but each has individual features. “Imagine the scene,” continues Impett, “more than three hundred toy soldiers, children’s toys–ten deaths for each one.” By making each figure unique, their creator hopes to heighten the emotional impact of the different sets. The grid-oriented arrangement of the figures echoes graphs that supply emotionless statistics, numbers rather than actual, individual human lives.

The actual Terracotta Army in China

The actual Terracotta Army in China

It is Impett’s hope that, when viewers of his work examine the individual figures and register their unique appearances, a sense of empathy is engendered. “Every soldier must have an identity, a background, a childhood, a love-story, a tragedy–without it,” he says, “the work is just a statistic.” The Cambridge graduate student worked on a project involving teaching empathy to autistic children. The children were shown images of people expressing emotion in response to various stimuli, but the children’s features–and related expressions–were superimposed on the faces of others. This project inspired Impett’s Digital Terracotta Army sculptural project. He believes that a dearth of empathy in this age of increasingly high-tech military conflict makes it possible for people to distance themselves emotionally from the real implications–and very human costs–of war.

As is the case with many artists, Impett must appeal for outside funding for his project. Rather than simply requesting donations, he asks donors to be a part of the project in a very directly physical way. In order to produce refined, detailed likenesses of the individual soldiers, the artist explains that he needs to upgrade his 3D printer to a “much higher-resolution Makerbot.”  His Kickstarter fundraising campaign runs through October 28.  Check out the Kickstarter Pitch Video below. Discuss Impett’s project in the 3D printed Terracotta Army forum thread on 3DPB.com.

Share this Article


Recent News

Siemens Mobility Extends Spare Parts 3D Printing Program to Russia’s High-Speed Rail

West Point: Bioprinting for Soldiers in the Battlefield



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Australian Army Enters 3D Printing Pilot Program, Partnering with SPEE3D & CDU

3D printing will soon be assisting members of the military in Australia, as a 12-month pilot training program has begun in a $1.5 million partnership with SPEE3D and Charles Darwin...

An Inside Look into the ACES Lab (Part II: TRICEP)

After peeking into some of the research labs at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), located at the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) in Australia’s University of...

The Year in Review: Bioprinting in 2019

This year, the bioprinting community has discovered ways to speed up precision in 3D bioprinting. Even though experts have warned us that 3D printed organs might not be available for...

Australian Navy Deploying SPEE3D Metal 3D Printing in Trial Program

At RAPID+TCT 2019 in Michigan, I spoke with Byron Kennedy, the CEO and co-founder of Australian startup SPEE3D, which developed a patented supersonic 3D deposition (SP3D) technology for super-sized metal...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our 3DPrint.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!