3D Printed Materials

3D Printed Materials

Museums are experiencing an increased presence of 3D printed objects in collections and higher instances of use in preservation activities, amplifying the critical need for preservation guidelines and resources for the museum professionals caring for these objects. An incredible variety of materials can be printed with 3D technologies, and new developments within the 3D printing industry continue to push boundaries. This material diversity presents major challenges to collections stewardship given that very few studies have investigated the preservation of 3D printed objects, let alone identified the extent of material variety found within museums.

A grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded in August 2021 is supporting IPI’s foundational research in this area. Project outcomes, including resources for 3D printing and preservation, will continue to be added and updated on this page throughout the project period, September 2021 – August 2024. IPI’s research aims to lay a foundation for 3D print preservation by identifying the most common 3D printed materials found in museums, the range and variety of those materials, and how each is being used within a museum context, with a special focus on objects entering collections and materials used in preservation activities.

85%

Materials printed are plastics/polymers

Source: Ultimaker 3D printing sentiment index 2021

#1

USA has the highest 3D printing adoption and investment rate

Source: Ultimaker 3D printing sentiment index 2021

$37.2B

Expectation of 3D printing market by 2026

Source: Hubs additive manufacturing trends report 2021

Recent Initiatives

Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for the Creation, Collection, and Consumption of 3D Printed Objects in Museums

Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for the Creation, Collection, and Consumption of 3D Printed Objects in Museums

Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for the Creation, Collection, and Consumption of 3D Printed Objects in Museums

Museums are experiencing an increased presence of 3D printed objects in collections and higher instances of use in preservation activities. The diversity of 3D printed materials presents a major challenge to collections stewardship given that few studies have investigated the preservation of 3D printed objects, let alone identified the extent of material variety found within museums. This project will consist of 1) a national survey to identify critical preservation challenges associated with 3D printed materials and technologies found in museums, 2) interviews with 3D printing industry leaders to inform a web-based resource that will support preservation of 3D printed objects in museums, and 3) the creation of a 3D printed study collection to support continued research and educational opportunities. These resources will provide a platform for the development of preservation guidelines and will be made available for free from the IPI website, immediately benefiting the global community of museum professionals responsible for preserving objects created by these emerging technologies.

Funded by:
Institute of Museum and Library Services

Award:
$375,543

Project Dates:
2021 - 2024

Principal Investigator:
Meredith Noyes, PhD

3D Printing Applications in Museums


Collections Objects

Objects acquired in museum collections

Fine art and sculpture
Fashion and jewelry
Furniture and decorative arts
Architectural models


Storage, Display, and Transit

Materials used to house, exhibit, and move objects

Specialized/contoured packaging
Exhibit components/support structures


Preservation Interventions

Materials used for restoration/treatment of objects

Restorations
Specialized tools


Education and Engagement

Objects made by museums for primarily educational purposes

Facsimiles
Hands-on engagement and education
Accessibility (ex: exhibits for visually impaired)