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3D Printing Brings Replicas of Ancient Greek Art to the Classroom

3d printAn innovative idea struck Greg Lewis when he was in his forth-year double majoring in mechanical engineering and classics at University of Virginia (UVA) — he had enjoyed his 2014 art history course so thoroughly that he decided to make a special thank-you gift for associate professor Tyler Jo Smith. Although he could never have guessed it, this gesture of kindness and gratitude would continue to keep giving to countless students for years to come.

Lewis decided to make Professor Smith a miniature 3-D-printed ancient vase mimicking the ones that he had studied in her class.

This gift sparked an idea in the associate professor to team up with Lewis and his engineering expertise in using the UVA’s Rapid Prototyping Lab to recreate 3-D-printed ancient Greek vases and other ancient artifacts for students to see and feel up close and personal.

“I wanted to create scale replicas, so that students could pass them around the classroom and have a chance to handle them,” Smith said to

And that is exactly what she and Lewis did using a Dream Idea grant from UVA’s Mead Endowment.

3d printNow the two have a team of six undergrad and graduate students helping them recreate ancient Greek artifacts to scale from archaeological sites and museums all over the world.

There are some 140 scanned and printed 3-D objects that the team has created thus far on display in the Fralin Museum of Art’s Joanne B. Robinson Object Study Gallery.

There really are no limits as to what is able to be recreated with 3-D printing and the team has created everything from Chinese ceramics and sculptures to ancient Mediterranean coins, African masks and figures as well as beadwork, ceramics and silver from the Museum’s American Indian collection.

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