3DP Applications

Holding Hands with Mummy Proves an Emotional 3DP Experience

A recent case study from Mcor probes some rather deep questions including whether there’s life after death and, more specifically, did the soul of the Egyptian woman who lived three thousand years ago sense anything when, in 2013 A.D., people took hold of her mummified hand?

Obviously we’re talking about the increasing uptake of 3D printing for producing replicas of historical artifacts for different reasons that link us, here in the present age of advanced technology, with ages past. Mcor’s paper-based, full colour 3D printing process is proving ideal for this kind of application.

The mummified hand in question here has been dated as being ‘alive’ some time between 1550 and 32 BC — not exactly a precise science with 1518 years of room for manoeuvre. However, the hand itself is part of the actual Eton Myers collection of safely guarded ancient Egyptian art in Birmingham. It was laser-scanned as part of the organization’s project to produce a digital collection led by the University of Birmingham, UK. The unique nature of this piece saw it reproduced back into the physical world as a precise, full-colour physical model using an Mcor IRIS 3D printer. The firm conducting the Museum Development Officers’ class, Black Country Atelier (BCA), commissioned Mcor Technologies reselling partner ITEC-3D of Bristol, England to produce the model, which can now be handled by history students of the present without worry of irreparable damage being caused.

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We’ll never really know, let alone prove, whether this project stimulated any spiritual links to the past, but the mummy handholding has certainly had ‘a profound impression on museum professionals who experienced it as part of a class on the possibilities of 3D printing in museum curation,’ according to Julie Reece, Mcor’s Marketing Director.

This is backed up by BCA partner, Jing Lu: “Students who have seen the hand are amazed. There is a definite sense that you are connecting with another person across the ages, and that is very powerful. It brings the subject matter to life.”

He continued: “Handling a model provides so much more information than you can absorb from an object behind glass. For instance, you can tell that the ring on the hand was apparently painted on versus forged from metal, or attached by a string – a detail that would be impossible to see at a distance or in a photograph. Handing a replica also helps you connect emotionally to the artifact. And it presents ways to re-interpret holdings in new combinations and contexts.”

Lu also explained the reasons for choosing the Mcor Iris platform for this application: “We selected the Mcor IRIS for this work because of its full-colour capability and its potential for low operating costs. That presents the opportunity for production of quantities of artifacts for appreciation, education or, when appropriate, sale.”

Museums are generally in the exploratory stage of 3D printing. “There’s a big movement in museums around how to refresh engagement with audiences,” says Lu. “Technology and 3D printing are pushing curators to re-evaluate how they can potentially reinterpret collections for the benefit of audiences in all ages, places and settings.” Reinterpretation could conceivably include more tactile display of artifacts, “mash-ups” of artifacts from different ages or contexts, and deeper interactivity. Imagine a museum patron standing in front of a camera and having her face projected onto a historical figure.

“Museums are being very careful to preserve the quality of the experience,” says Lu. “We are excited about the vast new possibilities that technologies like Mcor’s paper-based 3D printing present for the museums we are working with.”