3D Printing Roman Samian Ware for Museum Visitors

Samian Comparison Image In the second of two articles on Dr. Eujin Pei’s work in the Digital Building Heritage Group where as an Early Career Researcher (ECR) he has been developing techniques for laser scanning and 3D printing archaeological artifacts we turn to Roman pottery, here in this case a very typical example of Samian Ware (terra sigillata, fine red ancient roman pottery) dating from between 50BC to the 3rd century AD. The Jewry Wall Museum in Leicester has a number of fine examples of this type of pottery which have been found in and around the city which was once a planned Romano-British town called Ratae Corieltauvorum. We were commissioned by the Leicester City Council Arts and Museums Service to digitize decorated Samian Ware pieces and to reproduce these as replicas that could potentially improve the museum experience for partially sighted visitors through touch. The use of replicas in this way relies upon very accurate reproduction of the shape characteristics and surface details of objects so that partially sighted visitors can “see” the objects through their fingers. The better the fidelity of the reproduction the clearer the impression of the object the partially sighted visitor can get. The challenges of this project were to scan the objects at very high-resolution using our laser scanner in a non-contact process, circumnavigating issues of the reflective glaze-like surface to capture the beautiful motifs and designs of the relief-decoration (mainly hunting scenes) and then to get as much of that detail as possible into a 3D print. For this, a type of 3D printing called SLA was used which is a form of photo-stereo lithography where solid objects are fabricated by successively “printing” extremely thin layers of an ultraviolet curable material one on top of the other. The left hand image above shows the original and the right hand image is the 3D print which has had a light application of simulated soil residue to bring out the visual detail for sighted visitors. Just by looking at the two pieces it would be difficult to tell them apart without this distinctive application but the difference becomes more apparent when you pick them up, the copy is much lighter than the original because it’s made of plastic and not pottery. The aim of this project was to examine how high a quality of pottery artifact could be reproduced using SLA. The results have been examined by independent museum professionals and archaeologists who have indicated that the level of detail and fidelity is very high and convincing enough to use both for its intended purpose of informing partially sighted visitors but also in displays for the sighted public. We believe that reproduction of archaeological artifacts by laser scanning and 3D printing offers a number of possible uses within a museum and research environment, particularly where such a convincing level of detail can be achieved. The Digital Building Heritage Group welcomes opportunities for collaborative projects in this field. 03 samianware2

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
This entry was posted in 3D Laser Scanning, 3D Printing, Archaeology, Archaeology, Roman. Bookmark the permalink.