Here's a crowdsourced, 3D-printed bust of George Washington project - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Feb. 10, 2014 10:15 am

Here’s a crowdsourced, 3D-printed bust of George Washington project

At Direct Dimensions in Owings Mills, maker Todd Blatt is assembling a 110-piece to-scale replica of a bust of George Washington, made up wholly of 3D-printed pieces.

Todd Blatt holds two of the 3D-printed pieces that will make up imitation bust of George Washington.

On two tables in a back room of Owings Mills-based 3D scanning shop Direct Dimensions, Todd Blatt takes an inventory: of the 110 pieces he needs to assemble his three-dimensional puzzle of George Washington, just 49 have arrived.

It’s Feb. 7, a Friday, and by Monday he wants to be close to finishing the assembly of a bust of George Washington made wholly from 3D-printed parts.

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Pieces manufactured from 3D printers worldwide wait to be glued together.

Direct Dimensions has been home base for the George Crowdsourcington project, unveiled at the end of January’s Art Bytes hackathon at the Walters Art Museum.

While several of the 14 teams formed at the hackathon put together mobile trivia apps for learning about the artwork inside the Walters, Blatt and his team of five friends broke down a digital image of a George Washington bust — scanned by Direct Dimensions employees — into 110 3D-printable pieces.

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The Washington bust.

The 3,000-pound bust itself, sculpted by the Italian Giuseppe Ceracchi in the years following the American Revolution, is on loan to the Mount Vernon museum from the the nearby Washington Monument. Closed to the public three years ago, the monument on North Charles Street is now in the throes of a $5 million repair effort so that people can once again ascend the stairs inside.  

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Each digital drawing comes with its own X, Y and Z coordinates. Distributing the plans via a website called We the Builders, Blatt has been enlisting people worldwide to print out these pieces, which are then shipped to him at Direct Dimensions so he can glue them together.

Hence, the name Crowdsourcington. Blatt, the head maker and Vice President of Market Direction for Vancouver-based 3D-printer manufacturer Tinkerine Studio, printed nine of the 110 pieces. But he has crowdsourced the other parts.

Last Friday, as Technical.ly Baltimore observed Blatt’s setup, 3D-printed pieces came in from California, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York. For several days Blatt has excitedly tracked one particular part, which, according to the shipping trajectory, is on its way to Maryland from Beijing, China.

The end game? On Feb. 12, Blatt will drive north, to New York City, to display the 3D-printed Washington at this year’s 3D Printshow.

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Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist outside Washington, D.C. He's written for Wired, Backchannel, Popular Science, Fortune, the Washington Post Magazine, the Atlantic and elsewhere.

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