Tuesday, 8 March 2016

3D Printing and finishing the Nefertiti sculpture

Back in late 2015, two artists allegedly 3D scanned the famous 3300 year old bust of Nefertiti. Secretly and without approval inside the Neues Museum in Berlin - or so the story goes.

The artists liberating this model and also delivering a wonderful replica back to Egypt are Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles


Depending on what you read, who you ask and detailed examination of the 3D Model, you can probably make your own mind up about how this was 'created'.

Fabbaloo have a good version of the story here

You can see the very questionable PR stunt video over on Vimeo, shows the team hiding a low resolution scanner. Probably just to go with the story in the hope that news feeds pick it up. In reality someone probably spent a lot of time painstakingly reconstructing this model, or maybe it's the original high-resolution scan somehow obtained from the museum? One thing that's very nice is the fact the team have released the model into the world for people to enjoy and 3D Print if they so desire.

Lots of good details about the model, history and the story here too - by Suleyman Sonmez

This story is likely to be shrouded in a little mystery and speculation for some time, and maybe that's the entire point. The 'fear' that objects and artworks can be quickly 3D scanned like this will generate discussion and reactions. Regardless of the reality in actually doing this sort of thing, capturing a high resolution and accurate 3D model is not at all easy.

This post is not going deeper into the debate about museums, historical artifacts and tensions between countries that hold precious and cultural objects of desire.

I'm also not going to further speculate on how the model was actually made/scanned or obtained. Maybe another day on all those issues...

The great Fredini continues the discussion and speculation on his post here, if you do want to dig deeper into this.

Even more here (Nefertiti scan heist is a Hoax) from @CosmoWenman

This post is simply about printing a great and beautiful 3D Model with standard desktop 3D printing technology, and some simple finishing tips you can use or adapt to your own requirements.




For this 3D Print I used the following -
  • Standard E3D BigBox Pro 3D Printer. (build size 200 x 300 x 280mm)
  • Fitted with an E3D V6 Volcano nozzle (1.0mm nozzle size) - yes, that's quite big.
  • Colorfabb XT Co-polyester material and also Colorfabb nGen Co-Polyester (to compare both).
  • BigBox Pro heated build surface with my 'glass screen-protector surface' fitted.
  • Netfabb free version to cut up the model into sections to print (full sized).
  • Simplify3D to slice and process the model.
  • Standard grey builders plaster (low cost 10kg bag from DIY store) - You could use plaster of Paris or sand and resin - do not use cement / concrete or fast acting fillers - they generate lots of heat and can also contaminate the model and leach-out salts and minerals onto the surface of the model.
  • Superglue + activator to fill minor holes and joint the sections together - co-polyester and PET/G/T materials like cyanoacrylate (super-glue) - just be careful using it.
  • Sandpaper 240 grade and 600 grade.
  • Zinc based undercoat spray paint - (68% zinc content) low cost car grade 800ml can.
  • The zinc paint can be anything really, I like the finish you get with zinc, it can be polished and is good for highlighting features.
  • Optionally use a polyurethane spray top coat to seal everything after polishing.
    • I like to use Plasti-Kote 591 clear polyurethane gloss varnish. You can also get the 592 satin type - both in a 400ml spray can.

I explain the process and more about the print and finishing in the video below -


You can also watch it in HD on YouTube here -

I briefly contemplated just printing the model smaller, but after looking at the mesh and all the fantastic features, I had to print out a full size version.


 I used Netfabb to cut the model up into sections that could be printed easily, without the use of any support materials and with low levels of infill or hollow if desired.


Simplify3D was used to slice the model ready for printing.


Both sections of the headdress were printed at 0% infill and in spiral-vase mode using Colorfabb XT clear co-polyester filament.


The stunning face section is orientated so all the features can be printed without support. It does however require some level in infill, I used just a 6% rectilinear density to provide enough internal support, this worked perfectly and used minimum material.



The shoulder and neck section was also printed with 6% internal rectilinear infill, in light grey Colorfabb nGen filament.



The two top headdress sections glued and filled with plaster.


The only sections I have lightly sanded and polished are the face and neck, these are intended to be smooth on the original model and have very few areas of actual damage on the scan. The headdress has just been glued and spray painted, not a single thing was done to it to allow all the fine levels of detail to show. Looking closely you can make out the individual paintwork brush marks and texture of the original.

Glued and then a first coat of Zinc spray paint - all before any sanding was done to the face and neck.

Cutting up models into sections can really help on a desktop 3D printer, not only does it allow bigger final parts to be made, but also re-orientation so you may not need to use support material. I hope you try it out, and make some nice big things to display and enjoy.


Lightly sanded, than a second coat of primer paint - and a final polish.


It's now quite the talking point, after all it's not every day you discover a replica of a 3300 year old Egyptian artifact in someone's kitchen.

And if you are hunting more artifacts, the British Museum do share some of their 3D Models, unfortunately they are of a very low detail - maybe we can convince them to release some higher resolution models... but I doubt it.

The original complete model was shared here under a Public Domain license 

My cut up sections can be found on my Youmagine page here, also under a Public Domain license.

10-3-2016 - Update - And if you really want more on this story, take a look at this post here   -by Christian L├Âlkes 

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment, subscribe to me on Youtube and if you want to get in contact -

Twitter - @Richrap3d
Google+ - RichardHorne_RichRap3D

Until next time, happy printing.

Rich.