6. To keep in mind when making tactile 3D models

Certain objects and uses are better suited for 3D models than others. How do you tell which are best suited for 3D printing?

Below are some examples of questions which can be used to assess an object’s suitability as a 3D model.

  • Why do we want to produce a tactile 3D model of this object?
  • What is to be made tactilely accessible through the 3D model? 3D models give an exact reproduction of an object’s outer shaper, but cannot reproduce its function. For example, only a forged sword feels like a forged sword, with the right weight and lethality.
  • Is one 3D model of the object enough, or do you need several, where the choice of scale, material, and possible reinforcement in the form of ornamentation helps provide tactile understanding of the object?
  • How and where will the model(s) be used?
  • What does the intended use require of the model in terms of robustness, surface, weight, and similarity to the original? Can a 3D model with these properties be made, or is it better to use other materials and methods?
  • Which other information carriers can the 3D model be supplemented with, in order to become more accessible and comprehensible?
  • Has the object already been digitised in 3D? If not, are the necessary resources to do this available internally or externally?
  • Many complete 3D models of natural and cultural history objects are available for download and printing on platforms such as Sketchfab and Thingiverse. Perhaps the insect, dinosaur, or arrowhead in question is already available as 3D model?
  • The simplest and most cost-efficient ways of printing occasional 3D models is to contact a company specialising in 3D printing and letting them do the work. The range of materials and the quality of the prints are better than what you can do yourself on a consumer-grade printer.
  • When contacting an external 3D model manufacturer, make sure to specify how the model will be used, and what requirements this entails in terms of appearance and function. Ask for material samples and make small test prints if you are unsure. Ask for references. Perhaps the manufacturer has had similar assignments on behalf of museums?