12

The ability to 3D scan and then print objects within hours has presented numerous applications for the preservation of history, both from the past and the present. This has never been the case more so than last year when a team from the Smithsonian Institute received permission from the White House to come in and take a 3D portrait of President Barack Obama. In what would be the very first 3D portrait taken of a sitting US President, the team meticulously scanned the President using two different technologies, a ‘light stage’ face scanner, as well as hand-held 3D scanners. The entire process took a mere 5 minutes and will forever preserve Obama’s face in the chronicles of time.16

The 3D files were then saved and uploaded to a computer where the team stitched the images together and made sure that the resulting three dimensional model was 3D printable. Ultimately, they printed the bust from a thermoplastic material in a process which took 40 hours to complete. Since that time, the White House has released a video depicting the entire process and showing off the first ever 3D printed bust of a sitting President. The last time the bust had been seen by the public was on February 4, President’s Day, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

So the question is, “Where is the bust now, and why hasn’t the White House or the Smithsonian Institute released the 3D printable files to the public?” Yesterday in a blog post, the 3D printing service bureau, Shapeways, asked this very question, suggesting the following:

“The Smithsonian’s X3D platform could easily distribute the file (they already have President Lincoln’s face – both with and without a beard). The White House could host it on open.data.gov or open an account at any number of other places online. Then anyone could download the file and print their own President Obama bust. They could also remix President Obama to their heart’s content.”

Here at 3DPrint.com we agree! Why hasn’t the bust been released to the American public? There are millions of 3D printable files out there for anything from toy cars to Sir Paul McCartney to the icy comet “67p” from the Rosetta probe. 14Why don’t we have access this historic piece?

We’ve decided to take things a step further by creating a petition on the open platform Change.org, asking the President and the White House to release the 3D model files taken of the President last year. In doing so, this would provide the American public, including educational institutions and maker communities, access to use this important 3D model freely and creatively. The petition can be signed and shared here.

For those of you who don’t intend to hold your breath for the official files to be released, Sketchfab has done something pretty cool themselves. They have taken data from the White House video of the bust and created their own 3D model of President Obama. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great starting point for those wishing to print or remix the model of the President.

Let us know you thoughts on this petition and why you feel the White House should release these files ASAP. Discuss in the 3D Printed Obama Petition forum thread on 3DPB.com

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