Turning Artifacts into Ornaments via 3D Printing Technology

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artifact1Each and every day, I am amazed by the new uses I discover for a technology that most of us have only begun to recognize in the last a couple of years. 3D printing is delivering new ways of manufacturing, but it is also enabling new ideas to come to fruition, which never would have been possible with more traditional means of creation. Over the past year, we have seen several museums all around the globe begin 3D scanning their artifacts and then making them available for download and 3D printing via the web. This is providing a means for researchers, students, and other interested parties to get a firsthand look at replicas of artifacts that normally they would not be able to see, touch, or hold.

Now, one museum, the Idaho Virtualization Laboratory (IVL), is taking this concept and putting a bit of spin on it. The IVL, which is a research unit of the Idaho Museum of Natural History, located on campus at Idaho State University, has taken artifacts and created interesting holiday ornaments from them. These include the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Dire Wolf, Walrus, Hagerman Horse, Killer Whale, and more. What says “Happy Holidays” better than a 3D printed ancient artifact hanging from your Christmas tree? If nothing else, they will certainly be quite the attention grabbers.

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“Tis the season and we want to give back to all of you that have been so kind as to follow our shenanigans and work,” explained representatives of the IVL on their Facebook page. “To that end we are GIVING away a line of Christmas ornaments!”

So far, ten designs have been added to the IVL Shapeways shop, with more slated to be added soon. Anyone can download these designs for free; the costs on Shapeways cover just the materials/printing prices. Printed ornaments’ prices range from just $4.58 for the Crabtree Blade ornament in white nylon plastic, up to $30.97 for the Hagerman Horse, printed in polished metallic plastic.

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This is a terrific example of how 3D printing has brought to market products which would simply not have been feasible to manufacture prior to the technology becoming available. Without the need of expensive molds, additive manufacturing greatly reduces the cost of production, making it just as affordable to create and sell one unit of a product as it is to create 1 million.

What do you think about these ornaments? Have you purchased one for your Christmas tree? Discuss in the 3D Printed Artifact Ornament Forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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