Why 3D printing technique is the useful tool for artifact conservation

Wuyang Shui


Artifact was one of most important and valuable resource of cultural heritage. Only a limited number of artifacts were exhibition in other museums considering safety and precious, therefore it was a good solution to provide replicates for publics visit. Many of artifacts were still broken and needed artifact conservators restoration, therefore the new techniques should be considered to improvement the restoration speed and reduce prevented further damages. Hence, artifact conservators faced two tasks: how to easily and accurately to replicate artifacts and how to produce physical model of missing region to restore the damaged artifact.
In last two decades, 3D laser scanning technique has acquired both geometry and texture information of object and three-dimensional printing technique (3DP) has successfully converted the digital model to lifelike physical model. Therefore, the hybrid technique combining digital modeling, geometry computation and 3DP has gradually application in various applications. In this paper, we firstly reviewed the laser scanning and 3DP techniques, and analyzed the advantage and weakness of 3DP. Then, we described the technique pipelines of geometry computation and 3DP applications, especially the computation of missing region in detail. Finally, three case studies were illustrated, including artifact replicates( such as Wa dang, Chinese architecture), guiding heavy fractures reassembling (Terra Cotta Warriors and horses ) and missing regions production( damaged bronze Gu of the Forbidden city), which described how laser scanning and 3DP techniques were implemented to support artifact conservators to overcome the limitation of traditional manual technique. With the cost of 3D printer and printing materials falling, printing precision improving and printing materials developing, we considered more and more artifact group require 3DP to help them.