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3D Printing Brings Richard III Back to Life

From the Printware Blog on Tuesday 5th February 2013 in News, 3D Printing

If you’ve been following the story of the king in the car park, you’ll know that the remains have been confirmed as those of Richard III. Scientists have been able to bring him spectacularly back to life with a combination of techniques, including 3D printing.

After nearly four years of research, a team from the University of Leicester, working with the Richard III society, unearthed the body of the 15th century king in a Leicester car park. Using 3D printing technology, a team from the University of Dundee created an accurate model of the monarch’s face, literally bringing us face to face with the last Plantagenet king.

Caroline Wilkinson, Professor of Craniofacial Identification at the university led the reconstruction project and used a variety of techniques, including stereo lithography, to recreate Richard III’s face. Stereo lithography uses an ultraviolet laser which traces a cross-section into a liquid resin to create a single layer. Exposure to the UV laser solidifies the pattern and joins it to the layer below, as the object is slowly built up, one layer at a time. Once the head was complete, it was painted with glass eyes and a wig added to give a more realistic, life-like appearance.

The 3D image used to create the facial model was generated by an MRI scan taken at Leicester Royal Infirmary. This information was also used by a team at Loughborough University to build a replica of Richard’s skeleton, using a laser sintering 3D printer. Laser sintering uses a high powered laser to fuse small particles together to produce a 3D shape. This short video gives an overview of the skull being created:

With the original skeleton due to be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral, the 3D replica will be an invaluable tool for further studies, including a more detailed investigation of the king’s death. It is thought that the reconstructed face will be put on display to the public.


by Anthony Morgan

Posted in News, 3D Printing

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