CASE STUDY

King Tut Revealed through an Accurate 3D Replica

3 min read

View of the 3D-printed replica of the head of the King Tut mask

The enduring fascination of Tutankhamun is undeniable. Now thanks to the efforts of Gary Staab and the Materialise team, we can finally see the King behind the famous mask with our own eyes!

Of all ancient Egyptian mummies discovered over the past centuries, none has exercised a more enduring fascination than Tutankhamun’s. Part of the allure stems from undeniable curiosity. What does King Tut look like beneath his famous ceremonial burial mask? Thanks to the efforts of Gary Staab and the Materialise team, it is now possible to find this out with your own eyes!

Reconstructed 3D model of Tutankhamun in Mimics
Reconstructed 3D model of Tutankhamun in Mimics

Art and Technology Join Forces to Unveil the Mystery

When model-maker Gary Staab of Staab Studios was commissioned by National Geographic and Arts and Exhibitions to create a replica of King Tut’s mummy for display at the upcoming Discovery Times Square exhibition, he turned to Materialise. A specialist in re-creating highly accurate 3D models, past and present, Gary knew Materialise had all the tools to convert scanned images of the mummy into a virtual 3D model, and further turn this into a physical 3D-printed object on which he could start working his magic. It would be the perfect non-destructive method for revealing the physique of the long-dead king. The team at Materialise’s headquarters in Belgium was pleased to collaborate and work on this amazing project.

The process began by importing CT scans into Materialise’s Mimics Innovation Suite. The Engineering Services Team in Belgium rapidly converted the scans into a 3D digital replica of the mummy. Mimics’ incredible accuracy ensured that the highest possible detail was preserved. The lines, curves and contours of Tut’s skeletal structure would be translated into a model just as it is to date, under the mask and bandages.

Half of the 3D model, being hollowed in 3-matic
Hollowing of the 3D model in 3‑matic

Model Production: Keeping it in the (Materialise) Family

Once the digital model was created, the Materialise Engineering Services Team turned to their in-house developed 3-matic software for hollowing. Hollowing is an important step to make the model lighter, reduce the amount of resin needed to build the 3D model and decrease the build time. This was critical given the time constraints of the project.

The next step was to fix the model so it could be printed using 3D Printing technology. Thanks to Materialise’s Magics software for file preparation, they ensured a “watertight” file, crucial in this type of printing project. Furthermore, the printer performing the build was the company’s patented Mammoth stereolithography machine.

The final phase of the project — the physical reproduction of the computer model — was facilitated by the use of Materialise’s automatic support generation software, e-Stage. The stereolithography process cures a photosensitive resin by a laser that traces a part’s cross-sectional geometry layer by layer. This resin is in liquid form, requiring the part to be “supported” while it’s being built. e-Stage supplies this necessary support as it is designed not only to automatically create the support structure, but also to do so in such a way that it can be easily removed once the model is completed. This stage, known as post-processing, is much easier thanks to the support’s small contact points.

The Real Tut Revealed

Now the model was ready for Staab’s characteristic artistry. It was shipped overseas to Staab Studio in Missouri, where Gary Staab added the appropriate detail, color and texture. The finished model is virtually a “cloned” version of King Tutankhamun’s remains, as close to the original as technologically possible. Experts familiar with the real mummy state: “You can’t tell the difference.”

King Tut skeleton being printed via stereolithography in a bed of resin
The model being printed on one of Materialise’s Mammoth machines
Final 3D-printed product in resin with the support structures attached
Printed model showing the supports automatically created by Materialise’s e-Stage software
Woman finishing the 3D-printed model in a production area
The Materialise team post-processes the model before shipping it overseas
Finished version of the King Tut skeleton
Gary Staab added detail, color, and texture to the model

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This case study in a few words

Industry

Art & Fashion

Software

Why this approach

To recreate an accurate lifesize 3D printed replica of an ancient mummy

Solutions used

Magics

Mimics Innovation Suite

Stereolithography

How we helped

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