This is a guest post by Jonathan Blaney, Digital Projects Manager and Editor, British History Online for the Institute of Historical Research. If you were at History Day 2017, you might have seen the new 3D printer on the IHR’s table. This post explains a bit more about current and future 3D projects in the School of Advanced Study.

The School of Advanced Study has a new 3D printing lab. The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) and Institute of Classical Studies have bought two 3D printers, of different makes and capabilities, and are experimenting with the workflow that begins with imaging objects, then creating and manipulating digital models, and, finally, printing them in 3D. It’s still early days but anyone from the School who is interested is welcome to get in touch.

The first ever commission for the printer housed in IHR Digital (an Ultimaker-3) was an emperor penguin. The IHR library was planning an exhibition around its material relating to the Antarctic and asked for a penguin to go in one of the display cases. Fortunately we didn’t need to go to London Zoo and coax a penguin to keep still while we scanned it. We were able to download a 3D model from Thingiverse (a collection of models that are free to use).


Our printer has two nozzles but can only print discrete sections of a model in different colours, which wouldn’t work for the natural colour gradations of a penguin. So we printed the penguin in white and our talented library colleague, Siobhan, painted it. The model isn’t life size. In fact our printer isn’t large enough to print a life-size penguin. We might be able to manage a nightjar. The penguin you can see in the pictures is about six inches tall. The IHR Digital team christened it Organic Lifeform #001, but the library team renamed it Pollard.


Our next plans for the 3D Centre are a presentation at the IHR’s ‘Home: new histories of living’ conference and the scanning of an 18th century chair.