3D Print Smithsonian Artifacts

What the Smithsonian has just done for science and history lovers, who too happen to be 3D print enthusiasts, is out of this world. The world’s largest museum and research complex has made almost 100 artifact models available for download. From Amelia Earhart’s flight suit to remnants of a supernova, access these unbelievable ready to 3D print files. To have your own copy of objects one can only find in the Smithsonian’s collection and 3D Print Smithsonian artifacts? Now that’s something special.

“The Smithsonian Institution’s 3-D digitization portal currently features 124 interactive artifact models. Of these offerings—among others, the list includes Amelia Earhart’s flight suit, a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and the remnants of a supernova—just under 100 are available for download as 3-D print-ready files, making it easy for art, history and science lovers alike to obtain their very own copies of objects from the Smithsonian’s extensive collections.

Printing a miniature model of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit or a T. rex cranium is as simple as uploading a file to one of the many on-demand printing services found across the web. Shapeways, for example, charges $20.53 for a one-twentieth versatile plastic scale model of the famed dino predator’s skull and $129.51 for a 9-inch-tall rendering of Armstrong’s lunar gear. Makexyz, meanwhile, charges $48.90 for an FDM-printed plastic version of the spacesuit and $12.90 for a model of the famed dino predator’s head. Other online printing services include 3D Hubs, Sculpteo and i.materialise.

A few tips from Vince Rossi, head of the Smithsonian’s 3-D program: Artifacts must be ‘watertight solids’ lacking ‘really small little delicate parts’ in order to print successfully. A decidedly leak-prone 3-D model of a Revolutionary War gunboat, as well as the multi-component Wright Flyer, are therefore available as interactive models but poorly suited for 3-D printing. Some files may need to be resized in order to use printing services: Download a free 3-D modeling program like Meshmixer to scale models down. A professional printing service is probably the best option for those hoping to add a splash of color to their models.

‘By 3-D scanning [artifacts] and making them downloadable to build online, we’re able to increase access,’ says Rossi. ‘That’s kind of our general mission, … to increase access to content outside of our physical walls.'”

If you’re interested in building an impressive at-home museum of artifacts. Grab the full article here to access brief but informative descriptions of the artifacts history and details of the 3D model offerings.

“The artifact: Paleontologists unearthed the skeletons of more than 40 marine animals—the majority of which were baleen whales—while conducting excavations at Cerro Ballena, a fossil site in Caldera, Chile, between 2010 and 2011. This specimen, dubbed whale MPC 677, dates to the late Miocene Epoch and is between 7 to 9 million years old. Per a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B in 2014, MPC 677 was the ‘most complete fossil rorqual [whale] specimen’ found at the site. Based on analysis of the so-called “whale graveyard,” scientists identified toxic algal blooms as the animals’ most likely cause of death.

The 3-D model: Because the Cerro Ballena site was situated in the middle of a major construction project, paleontologists only had a short window of time to excavate the skeletons. Rossi and colleague Adam Metallo traveled to Caldera shortly after the discovery. As Rossi told Smithsonian magazine’s Abigail Tucker in 2012, ‘Day and night, we passed the scanner back and forth.’ Despite the time crunch, the duo managed to scan the entire site, including a 26-foot-long whale skeleton digitized at a ‘level of detail normally reserved for baseball-size objects.’ Using this digitization data, the team also printed a 30-foot-long replica of MPC 677 that is now on view at the National Museum of Natural History. Both full-scale and scaled down versions of the fossil are available for download.”

Want to 3D print Smithsonian artifacts? Get your hands on the other artifact models here.