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Young school boy contemplating sculpture of Rodin

Print your own Venus de Milo, and add some arms!

I am frequently in awe of what people are doing, or trying to do, with 3D printing. In the past few months we've seen NASA getting ready to print food in space, and researchers printing a tiny battery that could act like a filling station for nanobots and other miniature technology.

Moving away from the scientific for just a minute into the artistic (uber-nerds stick with me please as this is cool) we find a printing pioneer named Cosmo Wenman who is trying to bring great works of art to the world.

Here is the idea: Wenman has gotten access to the The Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Basel, Switzerland, which happens to have a huge repository of Greek and Roman sculptures, including famous works like Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, the Medusa Rondanini and Athena Parthenos. He's gotten permission to photograph them from hundreds of different angles and plans to use those photos to create detailed 3D computer-aided design programs that will be uploaded into the public domain and stored on sites like Makerbot’s Thingiverse,  where anyone can download them.

Using a 3D printer, the statue can be recreated in its actual size, or scaled down, depending on the type and size of the printer model. That means that you could create your own exact replica statue of Venus de Milo for your home. And since the designs are open source, you could also add to or change them, like giving the poor woman some arms.

Aside from giving people the ability to fill their homes with more great art works than Charles Foster Kane,  Wenman’s idea has great potential for schools -- from kindergarten to the university level, especially if it catches on elsewhere. Art history classes might not have to study Rodin’s or Michelangelo’s sculptures only from a picture in a book. And 3D printing could be applied in other areas, such as historical artifacts or models of ancient cities.

"The children growing up today and tomorrow with 3D printers in their homes and classrooms are on the verge of becoming the very first generation to have an aesthetic sensibility informed by direct, hands-on access to the world's sculptural masterworks," Wenman said. "Their cultural landscape and visual vocabulary will be richer, more complex and more varied than ours. Sculpture and artifacts will be able to speak to them in ways that have never before been possible."

He's created a Kickstarter campaign to support the effort, and is asking for a relatively modest $35,000 to complete the project. He's still a little shy of that goal,  though I plan to jump in and give him a few dollars. If you always wanted your own Winged Victory for your game room, or you want to do something more noble like donating Medusa Rodanini to your school, perhaps you will join in.

Posted by John Breeden II on Jul 09, 2013 at 2:16 PM


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