ArtColor 3D PrintingResearch & Education

Smithsonian Institution acquires full-color Mimaki 3D printer

3D printed tactile models will be used at various museum exhibitions

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The Smithsonian Institution has installed a full-color 3D printer from Mimaki at its Smithsonian Exhibits (SIE) studios in Landover, MD. The technology will be used by the Smithsonian to explore new exhibition practices for its various museums and offices.

Made up of 19 expansive museums and galleries, nine research centers and a zoo, the Smithsonian Institution is the largest museum, education and research complex in the world. The SIE plays an integral role within the heralded institution, fostering collaborations between the various Smithsonian museums and offices and the federal government. In short, the SIE’s role is to help plan and bring to life exhibitions.

With Mimaki’s full-color 3DUJ-553 3D printer at its studios in Landover, the SIE will be able to produce detailed models for research purposes as well as for public programs. One of the key uses of the 3D printer will be to create tactile models that visitors can engage with in exhibits.

Mimaki Smithsonian Institution
3D printed model representing an enlarged influenza virus

“We are pleased to be a part of the Smithsonian Institution’s efforts to engage and inspire audiences through the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” commented Josh Hope, Senior Manager of 3D Printing & Engineering Projects at Mimaki USA. “This printer will enable the Smithsonian to use new technologies to produce exhibits in new ways, particularly for creating models and tactile elements that help bring exhibits to life for all visitors.”

One of the first projects that the Smithsonian is using the Mimaki 3D printer for is part of the Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The SIE has 3D printed a series of models based on enlarged viruses—such as the influenza virus. The plastic virus models are meant to encourage interactivity and hands-on engagement with the museum goers.

With the 3D printer installed and in use, the Smithsonian Exhibits will create more tactile 3D printed models for various exhibits. Another key application that will be explored with the 3D printer is the creation of tactile display elements for visitors with visual impairments.

This is not the first time that the Smithsonian Institution has worked with 3D printing; the museum complex has been interested in the technology for some time. Last Spring, for instance, it released 3D printable digital models of a T-Rex and Triceratops to celebrate the opening of its Deep Time exhibit.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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