Creating Museum Magic With 3D Printing

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Nir Evanhaim, writing for Massivit 3D, discusses the role 3D printing can play when it comes to museums.

A museum can be a truly magical place. Think about it as a place where great inspirations have materialised and come to life visually. Museums can simultaneously entertain and educate, making them a favourite for educators worldwide. Behind the scenes, a lot of expertise, creativity and hard work is needed for each and every display.

They are created by highly-skilled professionals who have spent years honing their craft. For them, coming up with a great museum exhibit design and then seeing it through to final production is incredibly fulfilling, although often fraught with the pressure of meeting deadlines that cannot be shifted.

3D printed by Composite Images.

Turning a curator’s or designer’s vision into a reality can no doubt be challenging. So how does one go about building a great museum exhibit?

3D printed by Adaequo.

Phase 1: the concept and vision

A display or exhibit can be about science, history, art or archeology. Yet the implementation and form need to be geared towards a designated target audience and age group. Thought must also be given to the required level of interactivity. How can you best engage with the visitors that the museum aims to reach out to?

In the case of this 3m (10 foot) tall dinosaur, the aim of the museum was to attract train commuters to a new palaeontology exhibition at the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. It was decided to start promoting it at the closest train station. Looking for a way to produce a life-size Triceratops with authentic, intricate scales and features, the museum turned to large format 3D printing to create this massive beast. It was so effective and realistic that it caught the eye of all passersby. Print shop, Metropole, used the size of their Massivit 3D printer to their advantage for this undertaking, and the resulting authenticity demonstrated that any finish is truly possible, in this case, bringing an extinct species to life.

3D printed by Baicheng.

Making an exhibit interactive or dynamic in some way generally leaves a far greater impact on visitors. Lights, illumination, sensor triggers, or augmented reality features are sensory mainstays. They appeal to any audience and can effectively draw visitors’ attention to a particular part of an exhibit at a particular moment.

Large 3D printed displays can easily integrate interactive features. So it’s important to take these capabilities into account when designing or creating a museum exhibit. Assuming the storyline, background context and educational content have been defined, any featured animal, prop, or setting can be fabricated digitally, meaning the end result will precisely replicate the design. Today’s technology means you can either scan a physical object with a 3D scanner or design it from scratch in CAD software such as ZBrush or Rhino. What you see on the screen is what emerges straight out of the 3D printer, within hours.

Making an exhibit interactive or dynamic in some way generally leaves a far greater impact on visitors. Lights, illumination, sensor triggers, or augmented reality features are sensory mainstays that appeal to any audience and can effectively draw visitors’ attention to a particular part of an exhibit at a particular moment. Large 3D printed displays can easily integrate interactive features, so it’s important to take these capabilities into account when designing or creating a museum exhibit.

3D printed by Sismaitalia.

Phase 2: production

One of the key reasons why it has become popular to create museum exhibits with large format 3D printers like the Massivit 1800 is the speed at which projects can be delivered, from design through implementation. Being that fabricators are regularly presented with short deadlines, large 3D printers are often the only realistic option.

3D printed by Baicheng.

Phase 3: installation and logistics

Another big advantage to using 3D printers is that the parts are 3D printed hollow. From the start, they are light and yet strong. This helps with transportation and logistical considerations. It also allows for last-minute changes in the final context, as parts can easily be moved around. Producing hollow models and displays also enables more control over the degree of internal illumination.

3D printed by Media Resources.

Phase 4: the unveiling

Once your clients know they’re able to incorporate an augmented reality app or social media hashtags into their visitors’ journey, they’re sure to want to leverage these marketing and engagement tactics, so it’s important to expose them to it at the start.

These features can also be planned for the launch of the museum exhibit to attract more visitors. Your job is to ensure your potential clients know the full range of creative possibilities and that you are fully equipped to hit their deadlines.

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