Honey, I Shrunk the Pyramids: Met Museum, Proto Labs Create Model of Ancient Egypt

For the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, “Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom,” on view at the New York museum through Jan. 24, 2016, exhibit planners decided to reconstruct the pyramid complex of King Senwosret III in both a virtual and physical model.

The scale model of the pyramid site is displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries.

The physical 1:150-scaled model of the site is based on a 3D virtual model that was produced first, and modeled after 3D-printed prototype parts that were created by Proto Labs. For perspective, the main pyramid of the original complex was more than 206-ft.high. In the scaled model, it is 1.5 feet. The creation of the model, which is intended to bring this important Middle Kingdom era to life for visitors to the exhibition, involved a process that was an intriguing blend of traditional and digital methods. This process included traditional sculpting, model-making, mold-making, casting, carpentry and faux painting, plus digital methods of fabrication, specifically 3D printing. The additive manufacturing process by Proto Labs served as the Met’s prototyping phase that helped replicate the unique parts of the model.

A CAD model of the pyramid was initially created as an .STL file.

The prototypes, using the additive manufacturing process of stereolithography (SL), were made of an ABS-like thermoplastic.

Ronald Street, the Met’s senior manager of 3D imaging, molding and prototypes, says he was especially pleased with Proto Labs’ speed — getting parts back in days rather than weeks — and the prototype parts’ level of detail. “The detail of the 3D-printed part — it would have been very difficult to achieve that type of exacting geometry without the use of 3D printing.”

Read more details about how Proto Labs helped the Metropolitan Museum of Art in our latest case study.

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