The Smithsonian X 3D Project


The future of museums is bright with the introduction of the Smithsonian 3D project revolutionising the technological methods of capturing, collecting and recreating collection objects and their parts.

This project uses new technology which has the potential to change the way museums approach collect and display artefacts. Adam Metallo the 3D Program Officer at the Smithsonian Institution says the technology makes accurate replicas rather than identical copies.

“…we are essentially collecting lots and lots of measurements of an object, we take millions and millions of XYZ coordinates along the surface of an object and from there we can make an extremely accurate likeness”.

These advanced methods of scanning are an important tool for conservation and not just for interpretation, providing a low risk alternative to plastering, modelling or handling fragile or damaged objects in order to mould and craft replacements and repairs losses.

In collaboration with Autodesk, the Smithsonian’s digitalisation project has created a piece of Beta software known as 3D Explorer, which allows anyone across the globe to view, interact and print selected items in the museum’s collection. The Smithsonian has given access to a selection of their most popular collection objects including the Wright Brother’s first aeroplane. Visitors can examine the engineering of the plane right down to the smallest details of the shape of the aerodynamic wing, providing a new landscape in which to interact with the museum’s collection. 

The Smithsonian’s digitalisation project has created a piece of Beta software known as X 3D Explorer, which allows anyone across the globe to view, interact and print selected items in the museum’s collection.

3D printing is seen as the next revolutionary tool for several industries including manufacturing and education because of the way it allows interaction and manipulation of scanned data. At the same time there are ethical implications that come with the ability to replicate just about anything, requiring a strong code of ethics to combat potential misuse. 3D printing in Australia is seen as an influential tool for the future with applications across a wide number of industries.

The Smithsonian x 3D Project is fully operational and accessible from their website – so be sure to explore it.