3D Printing

3D-printed David stands just a millimeter tall

3D-printed David stands just a...
Michelangelo's David 3D-printed in miniature
Michelangelo's David 3D-printed in miniature
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A millimeter-tall 3D-printed metal replica of Michelangelo's David to the left, and the original marble masterpiece to the right
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A millimeter-tall 3D-printed metal replica of Michelangelo's David to the left, and the original marble masterpiece to the right
A 0.1-mm-tall replica was also produced, but lacked the definition of its millimeter-high brother
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A 0.1-mm-tall replica was also produced, but lacked the definition of its millimeter-high brother
Michelangelo's David 3D-printed in miniature
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Michelangelo's David 3D-printed in miniature

If you wanted to have a replica of Michelangelo's David in your home, you'd need plenty of space to show it off. But the replica 3D-printed by Exaddon and ETH Zurich would fit in any home, though you may need a microscope to see it.

The original solid marble masterpiece stands 5.16 meters (almost 17 ft) high and weighs in at a hefty 5,660 kg (12,478 lb). The miniature replica is hollow and made of copper, it's just 1 mm tall and tips the scales at 12 µg. It was 3D-printed by a team at ETH Zurich and Giorgio Ercolano of Exaddon using a method originally developed by ETH Professor Tomaso Zambelli a few years back.

Exaddon improved on the printing method that sees dissolved metals electrochemically deposited onto an electronically-conductive substrate through a micropipette coupled to a cantilever. High layer-by-layer printing precision is assured by monitoring the force at the point where the pipette touches the substrate.

The micro-David was printed in one session, without the need for supports or templates, and Ercolano says that there's enough freely-available data available to print the exhibition room where the real statue resides. But he opted just to recreate the Renaissance sculpture on its own, using an open-source CAD file that was sliced in software and sent directly to the printer. Though he didn't stop at one reproduction.

Two micro-Davids were produced – one at a millimeter high that took 30 hours to print, and another 0.1-mm-high statue that was done in 20 minutes. "The smaller figure is only as tall as the pedestal of the larger one," said Ercolano. Unfortunately, detail in the smaller version is somewhat lacking.

Real-world applications for the technology include manufacture and precision repair of microelectronics.

"We’re thrilled that a technology from our research lab has made its way into practical application," Zambelli commented. "An independent group was able to adopt our 3D printing technology and even improve upon it – which shows that it really works."

Sources: ETH Zurich, Exaddon

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