Rebuild (or Clone) the Forbidden City with 3D Printing
3D printing is being used to restore ancient artifacts from Beijing’s Forbidden City. Through a process of high resolution optical scanning, relics are being digitized and reprinted so that they are not lost.
The team is capturing the shape of the original objects using laser or optical scanners then cleaning up the data using reverse engineering techniques. This allows damaged parts of intricate artefacts to be restored in the 3D model before being 3D printed. This has been possible for some time, but Zhang has developed a formalised approach tailored to the restoration of historic artefacts. The teams is working on the ceiling and enclosure of a pavilion in the Emperor Qianlong Garden.
This technique has also been used to “clone” artifacts so that every museum can host the most valuable collections for its patrons.
The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.has over 137 million artifacts in its collection but only two per cent are exhibited to the public at any one time. Now, the organisation hopes to make more available by sharing its objects with other museums - or at least 3D-printed copies.
It’s interesting how techniques that previously could be considered akin to piracy are now being used to preserve cultural icons.