For centuries, ivory has often been used to make works of art. However, in order to protect the number of elephants, the ivory trade was banned internationally in 1989. Therefore, in order to restore the ivory part of the old artwork, people must resort to alternative materials such as bones, shells or plastics. However, so far there has not been a truly satisfactory solution.
Vienna (TU Vienna) and the 3D printing company Cubicure GmbH (as a spin-off company of TU Wien) have now developed a high-tech alternative in cooperation with the Art and Heritage Care and Edison Restoration Departments of the Governor-General of Vienna: new materials” Digory” is composed of synthetic resin and calcium phosphate particles. It is processed in a hot liquid state and cured into the desired shape with ultraviolet rays in a 3D printer. It can then be polished and color matched to create a realistic-looking ivory substitute.
Beautiful, mechanically stable
Professor Jürgen Stampfl of the Du Weien Institute of Materials Science and Technology said that the research project started with a 17th century precious coffin in the Parish Church of Morbach. It is decorated with some ivory ornaments, some of which have been lost. The question is whether 3D printing technology can replace them.
The team already has experience with similar materials: for example, the research team is also studying ceramic materials in dental technology. However, developing a suitable ivory substitute is a challenging task. We have to meet a series of requirements at the same time. Thaddäa Rath explained that he participated in this project. The material should not only look like ivory, but also its strength and stiffness. It must be correct and the material should be machinable.
Stereolithography in 3D printers
Through countless experiments, Thaddäa Rath and other members of the TU Wien and Cubicure team succeeded in finding the right mixture: tiny calcium phosphate particles with an average diameter of about 7 μm were embedded in a special resin and oxidized with extremely fine silicon.物 powder together. Then, the mixture is processed at high temperature in Cubicure’s 3D printer using thermal lithography: the material is cured layer by layer with an ultraviolet laser until the entire object is completed.
You must also remember that ivory is translucent. Thaddäa Rath explained that only with the right amount of calcium phosphate, this material will be translucent like ivory. Then, the color of the object can be polished, and the team has achieved good results with black tea. The black lines usually drawn on ivory can also be processed with high precision in the later stage.
No more ivory!
In the field of restoration, this is a huge progress: with the help of the new material “Digory”, not only is it better than before, more beautiful, and easier to replace ivory, 3D technology can also automatically replicate the finest details. It is now possible to print out objects within a few hours instead of laboriously engraving with ivory instead of materials.
Through our specially developed 3D printing system, we deal with different material formulations for completely different application areas, but this project is also brand new to us, said Konstanze Seidler of Cubicure. In any case, this further proves how diverse the applications of stereolithography are.
The research team hopes that this new material called “Digory” will be universally accepted in the future as an aesthetically and mechanically high-quality substitute for ivory, so that elephants don’t have to lose their ivory.
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