Design of the Week: Ötzi

By on February 21st, 2016 in Design

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This week’s selection is the incredible 3D printed reproduction of Ötzi, by Materialise, DNALC and artist Gary Staab.

Who is Ötzi? He’s only the most intensely examined person in all of human history, because of his age: 5,300 years. 

In fact, the 45 year old Ötzi was a mountain man of sorts, traveling in the Tyrolean peaks in Europe many thousands of years ago. For reasons that shall never be known, Ötzi was mortally wounded by an arrow and fell in a crevasse. The crevasse was quickly covered by snow, which became ice, which in turn preserved his 165cm body for centuries until melting uncovered it. Discovered by mountaineers in September 1991, it was initially thought to be a contemporary corpse. 

Until the discoverers saw the leather leggings, grass shoes and quiver of stone arrows. 

Ötzi was carefully removed and preserved for detailed investigations at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano since that time. 

Unfortunately, there’s only one Ötzi, making investigations and display challenging. 

A project by industrial 3D print service Materialise and the DNA Learning Center has changed that by creating a 3D printed replica of the famous mountaineer. 

Highly detailed 3D scans were taken of the body at the Museum, which were then carefully refined. Evidently there were some missing parts to the body, which were recreated using 3D modeling techniques, such as mirroring surviving portions. 

Once complete, the 3D model was sent to Materialise’s facility in Belgium, where their “Mammoth” stereolithography 3D printer went to work producing a replica. 

But that’s not the end of the story! The print was then transferred to the care of artist Gary Staab of the small town of Kearney Missouri, USA, for finishing. 

Staab is a very accomplished artist who has previously developed highly realistic models of prehistoric life and works of archaeology in all scales. His job here was to transform the print into something as close to the original as possible. 

After months of painstaking work, Staab and team completed the transformation, which is near perfect. The new Ötzi is now on display at the DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, NY. 

The entire process was captured and recently shown on the US-based PBS TV network NOVA, from scan to print to finishing. Here’s a clip of the show:

Today, thousands of years later, Ötzi likely could never comprehend the incredible technological processes his body underwent after the discovery, but we certainly can. 

Meet Ötzi, easily the most incredible 3D print of the week. 

Via DNA Learning Center, NOVA and Materialise

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!