CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Rapid Prototyping Journal, Volume 17, Issue 2
I think I have reached my “mid-life crisis” (although at 48, perhaps I am a bit too old) because I have just bought a fast motorcycle to pose around on. However, rather than go for a gleaming, new Harley-Davidson, I have purchased a 1972 Kawasaki 500 triple, in need of a complete restoration. A lot of grazed knuckles and oily hands lie before me, I am sure! The connection to additive manufacturing (AM) is that components for these older vehicles are becoming rare and therefore difficult, or expensive, to obtain. Some purists will only have genuine new old stock parts on their vehicles, but others would settle for a high quality, close matching replica. AM, coupled with reverse engineering, provides a means for creating these replicas. This was demonstrated as far back as 2001, when a metal radiator cap from a Delahaye 135 vintage car was scanned and a close replica manufactured using AM (Euro RP 2001 conference paper by Nartz et al.). As the cost of using AM drops and the range of materials increases then this will become economically viable for a wider range of parts.
Another area where replication of artefacts is important is archaeology. The original artefacts can be too damaged or too fragile to put on public display and so a realistic (and possibly improved) replicas are needed. An interesting example of this was published in Rapid Prototyping Journal, Vol. 14 No. 5 by Fantini et al. A damaged medieval skull was scanned, the missing part reconstructed in CAD and built in ABS material. It was then assembled with the original skull to create a complete specimen. A more spectacular archaeological reconstruction was achieved using Materialise’s software and hardware to create a life-size replica of King Tutankhamen’s mummy for display in a New York City museum (www.materialise.com/materialise/view/en/3245175-King+Tut+Replica.html). The mummy was built on Materialise’s Mammoth Stereolithography machine and then hand texturised and painted by Gary Stabb, natural history and prehistoric model maker. The end result looks identical to the real artefact and is a testimony to the combination of modern technology and traditional skills.
One commonality between these two AM application areas is that the physical past is being recreated using futuristic technology. The essential building block for this is a source of 3D data, usually an existing object but, increasingly, digital data will be available in the form of CAD files for artefacts that have been designed from the 1980s onwards. 3D digital archives are already being widely created to capture works of art for posterity. Perhaps, we need to expand this to 3D archives of everyday objects. This would mean that in the future, our past (or at least the physical aspect of it) need never be lost. This is a particularly inspiring thought for middle-aged males who always seem to be trying to rediscover their lost youth!