Obama Is First President to Be 3D-Printed

Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 01:13 PM

By Andrea Billups

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His pores are exposed along with every last wrinkle, but President Barack Obama was game to allow a Smithsonian Institution team to photograph him for a 3-D portrait — the first for a sitting president.

The scans of his face and head will serve to build a bust that will be featured at the National Portrait Gallery, a modern art rendering using the latest in technology, NBC News reported.

Obama, 52, sat for the scans earlier this year. One was a "light stage" face scan and the other involved hand-held 3D scanners as well as cameras. Both will be used to build his bust.

Printing such a 3D portrait is time-consuming. Obama's image took 40 hours. Photos of the scans, released by the Smithsonian, were shown for the first time Wednesday at a White House Maker Faire, an event that fosters technology.

In addition to its uses in the world of art, the emerging capacity of 3D printing is thought to help revolutionize manufacturing, proving highly customized products on demand, according to Forbes. Many companies are experimenting with its uses.

For artists, 3D technology can help to freeze a moment of a person's life in time, capturing dimension and specific characteristics beyond the capability of traditional photographs.

Obama's bust was printed by using a laser to melt plastic together. When it was completed the plastic created 5,000 layers. The plastic makes the portrait more durable over time, image specialist Adam Metallo told The Associated Press.

Presidential busts are nothing new. Both George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had plaster casts of their faces created during their presidencies. Those reside in the Smithsonian collection as well.

"We were really inspired by our experience with the Lincoln life masks," Gunter Waibel, director of the Smithsonian's digitization program, told the AP.

Related Stories:
Amazon Aims to Break From Pack with 3D-Ready 'Fire' Phone
The Rise of 3D Printing From Toys to Guns to Fingernails

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