In a move that already has me checking the prices on 3D printers, CNET's Daniel Terdiman is reporting that the Smithsonian will be making swathes of its collection available online as 3D printable objects. Admittedly, I may just be a tad too excited — here's what's going on.
The dream is big, but right now it's only being fueled by two minds: Adam Metallo and Vince Rossi, 3D digitization coordinators at the Smithsonian.
Rossi told Terdiman that what's in the works is a "new form of museum collection" or a "digital surrogate" of the Smithsonian, one that would mean that the museum's collection could be enjoyed as 3D objects online and even printed out. This could help with everything from repairs to museum loans, or even letting Smithsonian fans print out 3D models of their very favorite pieces. Read: the Smithsonian wants to do a lot with the idea, but the real shape of the program has yet to be discovered.
So why am I excited if this is so far off? Not to tease you, dear reader, but the Smithsonian already has a pretty respectable online presence. You can view a lot of the museum's objects online. It makes me hopeful about the Smithsonian's ability to embrace new technologies. You won't be able to print out your very own functional Apollo crew capsule, but you could (maybe) print a faithful scale likeness without having to take a trip to the toy store.
The push began when the Smithsonian 3D-scanned Thomas Jefferson, according to Terdiman:
Taking a Minolta laser scanner worth well up to $100,000 along, [the Smithsonian] contracted with Studio EIS to generate an intricately detailed 3D model of the statue that was then turned into the 3D printed replica by RedEye on Demand.
You can read how that went in Terdiman's write-up over on CNET.
So, what would you want to print out? PopSci's Rebecca Boyle asked the same question of her readers, and claimed a lot of the big ones: "Wright Flyer, Friendship 7, Apollo 11 command module, and a Mars rover." She didn't leave much for the rest of us, but I'd settle for being able to print out replicas of some of the tin toys in the Smithsonian's possession, or models of car and jet engines.