Ötzi the 3D Printed Ice Man


Ötzi is a very unlucky duck. Born in the bronze age of mankind nearly 5,300 years ago, Ötzi suffered from intestinal inflammation and heart problems, he was likely fairly malnourished, and then he was murdered and dropped in the snow. Life for Ötzi literally could not get worse. Fortunately for us however, the snow that Ötzi was dropped in froze over, and preserved him nearly perfectly until he was discovered by hikers on Tyrolean Alpine peak in northern Italy. The two hikers stumbled upon Ötzi in 1991 and he became quite famous for being one of the most naturally well preserved mummies ever discovered. This was of course, the highlight of Ötzi’s after-life. Sadly, due to the grand importance of finding a guy perfectly preserved in the snow, Ötzi had to be stored away in a frozen vault in Bolzan, Italy. This would protect him from decomposition, and contamination, but made it incredibly difficult for him to be studied. It also made it impossible for him to be displayed in museums, which deprived the world from getting to admire his broken and shriveled form.


This is where NOVA, and paleo-sculptor Gary Staab stepped in, they wanted the world to be able to see and study Ötzi without restraint, and doing so required a perfect replica. Naturally, they turned to 3D printing and scanning. So after being removed from his frozen slumber once again, Ötzi was sent to a CT scanner, where technicians could scan his entire body without greatly disturbing the remains. That information was then taken, and Staab used digital sculpting tools to replicate certain missing pieces of Ötzi such as the ribs, which were mirrored over from other existing pieces. Ötzi was then printed out in a massive Stereolithography (SLA) machine, where he would be cleaned, polished and painted, giving Ötzi an effective twin that could be studied and admired to our hearts content. The copy of Ötzi is now on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano Italy, and this crazy journey for Ötzi’s remains prove that while life may be cruel, the afterlife can be exceedingly bizarre.


Alec. “Ötzi the 5300-year-old Ice Man Mummy given New Life through 3D Printing.” 3ders.org. 3ders, 18 Feb. 2016. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.


Posted in 3D Printing, 3D Technology Blog.

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