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Rapid Prototyping: Bringing Our Past to Life

The history of mankind is elusive but irresistible. We search with a zealous approach to discovering our roots and ancient secrets. As we discover more and more about our past, our understanding of what it means to be human, evolves. We’ve found mummified bodies, ancient ruins of cities, shipwrecks, unusual stone patterns and many more monuments in our quest to understand where we come from. But still without a physical embodiment of some of our findings, we seem to fall short of the complete picture. What if we could recreate a physical scale model of our past? Archaeologists in the United Kingdom have done just that using the ever-adaptable method of 3D printing.


Diversity in 3D Printing


3D printing, or rapid prototyping, is a technological breakthrough that is truly transforming the way organizations create their products. Although it is used mainly in prototyping, 3D printing is also used in a variety of other causes.




The aerospace sector, recognizing the benefits of 3D printing adopted 3D printing technologies early on. They used it mainly for product development. Due to the vital essence of aircraft development, only industrial grade rapid prototyping systems can be used. Some users include Airbus and Rolls-Royce.



Another early adopter, this particular industry always has a potential for growth. With rapid prototyping, the customization possibilities are endless and as technology improves, our ability to help people in need improves as well. Today rapid prototyping provides benefits such as being able to create hearing aids, hip implants and other necessary items. An emerging trend is the printing of surgical guides for very specific operations. In the future, we may even be able to print human skin and organs!



While art may seem better off left alone to many, as it is seen as a personal embodiment of the artist, 3D printing has found its place in this craft as well. Students of art can now recreate replicas of masterpieces to study them like never before. This opens up new pathways for the art world to investigate. If you listen closely, you can actually hear Leonardo da Vinci grumbling in his grave.

Food Even the food industry couldn’t help but join in on the craze. Food is a commodity that will always be in demand and 3D printing has presented us a concept of producing a full meal complete with a balance of nutrients. Currently chocolate and sugar are being produced. The creation of meat was attempted and even pasta has been considered. In the future, entire meals may be created.



Although the fashion industry doesn’t come to mind when we think of rapid prototyping, it is one that has been impacted heavily. Shoes, hats, bags and even dresses have been made using this technology. If you thought the fashion industry was making a statement before, with this new technology at hand, they will yell their statements for all the world to hear.



Shipwrecks Brought to Life


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We have hardly scratched the surface of what lays deep in the ocean, but with our constantly advancing technology, it is becoming easier to navigate the deep reaches of our vast oceans. We’ve come across ruins of many historical shipwrecks but now, with the power of 3D printing at our disposal, we can recreate these ships using the processes of photogrammetry and sonar imaging.


Photogrammetry is measuring the distance between objects using photographs. Photogrammetry helps us to predict earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters. It also helps in researching on the swimming of fish, the flight of birds and other related motions. In this case, along with sonar imaging, archaeologists were able to bring to life 2 historical shipwrecks. The first a shipwreck found in Scotland and the HMHS Anglia, which was a steamship used as a floating hospital, was found near the south coast of England.


Once the team realized the techniques they were using would result in enough to data to create a full image of the ships, they went to work on developing that image. Once the image was developed, the team was able to print out exact replicas, or “objective 3D models” as McCarthy called it. Archaeologist John McCarthy, the man in charge of producing the scale models, said that this accomplishment was proof of the possibilities we have with rapid prototyping. He also mentioned how people seem to engage with a physical object better than an abstract concept. A physical object can be brought to places of learning such as museums where people can marvel at our past. In fact John McCarthy stated that they would donate the models to local museums.


This was not the first time that archaeologists printed out 3D models using underwater imaging data. This particular field has been blooming into one that will be looked into even more vigorously in the future. There have been massive advances in photographic and sonar techniques so archaeologists are able to produce more accurate images of historical ruins. Laser scanning approaches are being used as well. With such leaps of technological advances being made, it’s no wonder that 3D printing is being looked into more and more by a diverse array of organizations and sciences.





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