I received an email today from a faculty member at the University of Washington in Mechanical Engineering -- Mark A. Ganter. Ganter works on rapid prototyping technology as part of the Open3DP project. This is a spectacularly cool technology that enables designers/engineers/artists to design and create three dimensional models directly from computer imaging. According to his web site:
Our process involves 3D printing of an object, depowdering, sintering, and finishing. In some application an infiltration step is performed with colloidal silica after sintering to decrease porosity and increase strength. Several available dry clay bodies were adapted for use in an existing commercial 3D printer. We are testing these new materials to provide engineering data (presented as graphs) on sintering temperature verses shrinkage, flexural strength, and porosity for the various clay bodies demonstrated in 3D printing. Our resulting material is a porous ceramic sponge-like body.
Ganter used 3D point cloud data that I generated from a series of photosynth projects to create a 3D replica of a moai (the "japan" moai that stands near the entrance to Tongariki). There are a number of cool dimensions to this project --- (1) given the Creative Commons license that I've given for the data and images, it has all the makings of a scene in Cory Doctorow's "Maker" book [that I immensely enjoyed] (2) it provides the first actual physical model of a moai that can be used in experiments. Previous models of moai created for transport experiments were largely based on eyeball estimates of shape/form. Consequently, there has been no reason to accept claims about transport being conducted one way or the other, especially given the inherent uncertainty of the center of mass and basal shape. This is the real deal. Notice, for example, how much the head dominates the overall figure as well as the way the head cranes in a forward direction.
Ganter is sending me one of the models he has produced - Can't wait to see it!