Monday, 16 August 2010

Tutankhamun's mummy materialises: the secret exposed

In 1922, the treasure-filled tomb of ‘The Boy King’, Tutankhamun, was discovered and created a sensation. During the 1970s, the magnificent artifacts were brought to the public in a touring exhibition. These treasures are back ... but you will never have seen King Tutankhamun like this before. 

Materialise, based in Leuven, Belgium, is a leader for Additive Manufacturing solutions. When a replica of Tutankhamun’s mummy needed to be built, Materialise got the job.

New York City is the last stop on the exhibit’s US tour and National Geographic, along with Arts and Exhibitions, wanted to add a new and exciting component. They decided that having a replica of Tutankhamun would be just the thing to make the Discovery Times Square Exposition unique. They commissioned Gary Staab, natural history and prehistoric model maker, of Staab Studios to recreate the mummy. All he needed was Materialise to get him started.

Gary Staab had heard of Materialise’s software and knew that they could generate 3D files that could be printed on their Mammoth Additive Manufacturing machines. Knowing the time restraints, he was convinced that this method was the perfect starting point for making a replica that is identical to the real mummy.

The process began by importing CT scans of the Tutankhamun mummy into the Mimics software. This Materialise software created an exact 3D model of the actual mummy. From there, 3-matic software by Materialise hollowed the model. Hollowing was important because it reduced the amount of build material and made the final product lighter. In addition, hollow structures can be built faster, as the surface area of each layer is reduced.

Now that the digital model was ready, the Materialise team used their Magics software for fixing the file. This ensured that the model was ‘watertight’; a crucial step for 3D printing.

Having been virtually transformed, Tutankhamun came to life on Materialise’s Mammoth Stereolithography Machine.

Stereolithography is a process that cures photosensitive resins by a laser that traces the part’s cross sectional geometry layer by layer. As the material is a liquid resin, it requires that the part is 'supported' while being built.

Materialise has a special software called e-Stage that automatically generates these supports to ensure a successful build. Once the model is built, the supports must be removed. This step, called post-processing, is much easier thanks to the small contact points of the supports generated with e-Stage.

From there, Tutankhamun’s model journeyed overseas from Belgium to the Staab studio in Missouri. Once in the studio, Gary Staab added detail, colour, and texture to complete the replica and make it look identical to King Tut’s actual remains.

Tutankhamun prototyped body, as well as the other famous artifacts of his tomb, is being showcased in New York City until 2nd January 2, 2011.

The Tutankhamun Replica built on Materialise Mammoth stereolithography machine.
King Tut Replica built on Materialise Mammoth stereolithography machine - ready to travel to the US.
King Tut Replica built on Materialise Mammoth stereolithography machine; finished by Gary Staab; showcased in New York City at the Discovery Times Square Exposition.

To see Materialise build 3D replica of King Tut’s mummy Watch the Video Here

All images are copyright of Materialise.


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