Each year, more and more industries use 3D printing to learn and expand their capabilities. We are starting a new blog series called ‘3D Printing in Action,’ where we highlight all the unique and exciting ways 3D printing is being used across the world! No matter what they are most interested in, your STEM students can use the knowledge and skills they learn in your classroom to prepare them for a future career in archeology, marine biology, music, sports, and more.
3D Printing in Anthropological and Archeological Research
The applications for 3D printing are not at all limited to manufacturing and engineering. Many diverse disciplines have discovered innovative and essential benefits in 3D printing and scanning. One surprising use case is in anthropological and archeological research. For researchers at LSU, 3D printing is breaking new ground in the study of ancient artifacts. In particular, underwater artifacts! The DIVA Lab, or Digital Imaging and Visualization in Archeology Lab, is an entire entity devoted to utilizing the incredible capacities of 3D printing. Recently, they have been hard at work on the Underwater Maya project – creating 3D replicas of artifacts found in Belize.
The usage of 3D scanning and printing is crucial for the Underwater Maya project because the DIVA Lab is cataloging and preserving the only known Classic Maya wooden structures in the world. These structures are not only important for historical research and preservation, but they are also culturally significant to the Belizean and Mayan peoples. Disturbing these artifacts to remove them can cause damage, and exposure to the air can cause disintegration. In addition, most of the artifacts are just small pieces of a larger whole. 3D scanning allows for the conservation of the original artifact while still being able to study the entirety of its form and usage for anthropological research. In this way, the DIVA Lab can still educate the populace about the Classic Maya structures while not damaging them – an act that would be impossible without the aid of 3D scanning and printing technologies.
About the DIVA Lab
The DIVA Lab was started in 2009 by Professor Heather McKillop to explore and experiment with 3D printing and scanning. What began as a small space has grown into a large lab with the growing interest in 3D printing and scanning. It’s not just used for the Underwater Maya project, however. Professor McKillop and her colleagues are always pushing their students to use imagination and experimentation in their scientific research. The lab’s newest acquisition, a photorealistic 3D printer, allows for the prints to be made in full color, rather than painting the 3D objects after the fact. This is proving helpful for a new project – 3D printing busts from headshots and working towards full-body scans. While DIVA is not a fully open access lab, there are outreach projects for high school students. The DIVA Lab is embracing yet another exciting application of 3D printing technology. If you can dream it, you can 3D print it!
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