Are you 3D-printer-curious? Wondering if they’re a gimmick or an asset when designing and building displays?
At Xzibit, we’ve been tapping into their potential for a couple years now. For some exhibits they are absolutely essential. If you’re eager to engage a visitor’s sense of touch but your collection is particularly precious, 3D printers create possibilities. For the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre we produced fossil specimens that visitors can touch. After reading labels and looking at fossils through glass, it’s a rewarding moment to touch an object. For visually-impaired visitors, these opportunities are particularly memorable.
When designing exhibits, museums and visitor centres also don’t have an unlimited catalogue of objects to choose from. 3D printing helps expand display options. When Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre wanted to display both sides of an obdurodun skull, through 3D printing a replica skull, we could provide this experience. Displaying a drawing of the skull would have ‘ticked’ the box but simply isn’t as engaging. *side note: obdurodon species are extinct platypuses https://australian.museum/learn/australia-over-time/extinct-animals/obdurodon-dicksoni/
Xzibit has also enjoyed using 3D printed models to replicate other ‘extinct’ species. In Queensland, tens of fire towers have been removed from forests over the last decade. While images live on, they don’t wholly communicate the variety in tower scale and design. At the Chinchilla Museum, 3D printed models have enabled us to convey design differences with fewer words. A further benefit is the models are very accurate (coming from CAD files), more robust and yet seemingly more delicate. Anyone who has attempted to build a model – which is most visitors – can also relate to and appreciate the beauty and detail in the display.
I 3D printed a model of a fire tower and my client asked ‘Is it to scale?’ I replied, ‘No, it’s to look at.’ #dadjoke
Speaking of accuracy and beauty, Xzibit is also a fan of 3D printed topographical maps. If your client is science-minded, a hand-modelled map is unlikely to capture key data and details. By 3D printing map displays, Xzibit has provided nature centres like Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve with beautiful and accurate display resources.