3D Scanning and Printing: A Look into the Future of Artifact Preservation and Access

Imagine a world where you could make whatever you want, just by pressing “print”.

Forget going to the store to buy your clothes, just download a digital file and print yourself a new pair shoes. Lost a button on your jacket? Scan and print a replacement, no problem. Fancy a miniature statue of Michelangelo’s David after your recent trip to Florence? Why not construct a direct replica of the real thing using your vacation photographs?

All this might sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel, but in reality, this technology is right on our doorstep. In the past 30 years, 3D printing has moved away from the theoretical and planted itself firmly in our everyday reality.

If up until now you have only associated 3D printing with brightly coloured plastic baubles, you might be surprised by the large assortment of applications that 3D scanners and printers are used for today. 3D imaging is used extensively in the field of manufacturing for industrial design and product development, and in the oil and gas industry for pipeline inspections. For years, the entertainment industry has employed 3D technology in the production of movies and video games, and we have only just begun to see what possibilities 3D printing holds for health care with printed prosthetics, medical implants, and even living cells for transplantation.

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