3D Printing and Scanning to Provide International Access to Ancient Museum Pieces

3D Printing and Scanning to Provide International Access to Ancient Museum Pieces

By Daniel Lawrence

3D scanning has been widely adopted throughout many industries. It offers the ability to digitize almost any physical object producing a high quality digital representation of that object. With recent advancements in technology, 3D scanners can achieve phenomenal accuracy, further opening the door to more industries. 3D scanning can use a number of different technologies, from handheld ‘blue light’ technology to stationary X-ray 3D scanners.


Figure 1. The Nikon Metrology XTH320 X-ray and CT scanner

An area where 3D scanners have been adopted is in the world of archaeology. Museums and archaeologists alike have found many valuable ways to utilise 3D scanning technology.

One project commissioned by the Oxford Museum of Natural History was to use the ‘Oxford Dodo’ to perform research into the extinction of the Dodo. The Dodo is one of the most famed extinct animals in western culture. It was further popularised in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The dodo was thought to become extinct around 1662 when the last documented sighting of this flightless bird was recorded. The Oxford Museum’s University of Natural History has the last Dodo specimen with remaining soft tissue known as the ‘Oxford Dodo’. In 2018 the Warwick Manufacturing Group was commissioned to 3D scan the Oxford Dodo. As well as providing information on how the bird lived it gave surprising explanation to how it died. The results of the scanning process produced a model which clearly displayed several small lead pellets in the back of the head of the specimen. Prior to this it was thought introduced animals were the primary cause of extinction however this new evidence may suggest they may have been hunted or even considered a pest.

William from the Warwick Manufacturing Group, who performed the scan explained; “We actually found, to the back of the head, it had been shot, and then possibly brought to the UK. The whole storyline of the only surviving specimen of its type in the world changed.”


Credit: WMG/ University of Warwick

3D scanning has also been used by museums to create ‘virtual museums’. Delicate and rare items like the Oxford Dodo can be scanned in high resolution and full colour to create an interactive models for people to admire and inspect from a computer anywhere in the world. This technology has been used to produce interactive displays in museums all over the world eliminating the need for the original piece to be transported and displayed internationally.


3D Printing and 3D scanning go hand in hand. Museum pieces converted to digital models can be 3D printed to produce physical models, almost identical to the original, in any museum. This allows museums to produce accurate displays of much sort-after and rare pieces, without having the associated costs and effort required to bring the original piece to site. For example the British Museum have been producing 3D replica models of various international museum pieces using a combination of 3D scanning and 3D printing.

With continued technological developments, 3D scanning and 3D printing are becoming common practice in many industries around the world. From engineeing and prototyping to preserving the world’s ancient treasures, it seems there is no limit to the extent these 3D digital technologies can assist. At Cammpro our brand new, 2019 model 3D scanner offers some of the highest resolutions available – right here in Australia. If you would like to scan any engineering part, a human head or even a valuable family heirloom, we can help. Just give us a call or shoot us an email – we’d love to help out!


Daniel Lawrence