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Inition and Feathercast create models for Fitzwilliam museum
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An original 2,000 year-old Han Dynasty Dog being scanned by Initiion
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The Fitzwilliam Museum shop
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Fitzwilliam at Home shop
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Bacchus replica finished on the 3D printer and ready for processing
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Final 3D printed model of Bacchus
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The close up quality of Bacchus
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The Feathercast workshop
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The Bacchus on the shelves
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Han Dynasty replica price tag
As the Government seek to cap tax relief for wealthy philanthropists’ donations to charities, the arts and culture community have had to be pro-active and set about finding a different business model to sustain their museums, galleries and libraries.
According to estimates published in The Telegraph last year, gifts from philanthropists accounted for more than 15 per cent of the £10.6 billion donated to charity in Britain in 2010.
The Art Fund also warned that up to £175 million of private donations over the next three years is at risk to Government-funded arts organisations, which have already been subject to numerous budget cuts by the Coalition.
At D3D Live last month Personalize guest blogger Ping Fu discussed the ways in which 3D scanning and 3D printing could be utilised for a new retail business model in museums. A business model that could keep these establishments running without the need to rely on wealthy donations in this recession hit world of ours.
One establishment who are way ahead of the game is Fitzwilliam Museum which is the art and antiques museum of the University of Cambridge. In their shop you will find stunning replicas priced at £50, the best have been 3D scanned, 3D printed then moulded traditionally to create facsimile replicas of priceless objects.
The two companies behind these beautiful replicas are Feathercast - a purveyor of fine cast models handmade in Britain - and 3D scanning and 3D printing experts, Inition who were tasked with scanning and creating the prototypes for the artefacts. Personalize and TCT paid a visit to the Shoreditch based operation to find out more on this fascinating project.
Housed on Curtain Road – home to the first ever Shakespearean theatre - Inition is well situated at the heart of a design and technology community. Inside their impressive office/workspace, we were met by the ultra-accommodating Communications Manager Jonathan Tustain and 3D Scanning & 3D Printing Consultant Robert Jeffries.
Below a typically relaxed design office is where all the magic happens. In the hi-tech exhibition/workshop basement you can see a host of 3D printing and scanning technology, along with the finished fruits of their respective labours.
There’s a project I was amazed by, earlier on in the year, which combines 3D printing and augmented reality as an architectural tool. There’s also a community project for Hackney Council that shows Inition’s dedication to mass customisation without the need to put your name on the back of an iPhone case “We wanted to do something to do with 3D printing and their community.” Tustain told us “So we tried to engage the public about how long they had been in the community, their roles in the community… etc and that data created something unique - a tree. Large trees have more branches because the individual's data shows they have lived in the area for a long time. We like to call it an 'info sculpture'. We like making algorithms to create things.”
Ain't nothing but a Han Dog
Sitting pride of place is, quite rightly, the Fitzwilliam project and the marvellous Wedgewood Bacchus God of Wine replica that now adorns the shelves of the Fitzwilliam Museum Shop.
“They [Fitzwilliam] needed a new revenue stream and had five tasked us with recreating a Han Dynasty Dog, the Bacchus, a Buddha Lady and a few other priceless artefacts.” Said Tustain.
Jeffries went on to explain the process more in-depth, “The pieces were scanned with our white-light non-contact scanning technology. The data was analysed and processed to create a 3D-printable model that was used to create a mould for each piece. The data was then sent to Feathercast who recreate the items using the stone like material, Jesmonite. The great thing about Jesmonite is that it has a weight to it, it's not like other 3D printing materials - it's not Lego.”
Tustain agrees with Jeffries opinion on the quality of the Jesmonite replicas “The Han Dog was made so well that you can barely tell the difference between the real one and the replica. When you put them side-by-side it’s so difficult to tell which is which. They’ve decided to make even more. With All the upfront cost taken into account, they should break even in 18 months, everything after that is profit”
The fact that this endeavour has been such an unmitigated success means the door is now open for Inition to take on other museums’ shops but the stumbling block, according to Jeffries, is the detachment of museum’s retail arms from the overall budget.
“The problem we are finding is that the retail market within the museums is that they don't understand 3D printing.” He continues “There's no reason why they cannot sell these copies and the data that goes with them, but one of the key selling points [for 3D scanning artefacts] is the integrity of what we are doing. “
In this day of tightening of wallets the arts and culture establishments are finding their budgets slashed, left, right and centre. The Inition/Fitzwilliam project is testament to how new technology could be the saviour of this nation’s fantastic heritage.