3D Printing of Cuneiform Tablets

Images from this website can be used freely. Please credit project participants.

Project Members: Natasha Gangjee, Hod Lipson, David I. Owen.

Past Members: Evan Malone

This project started as a collaboration between Professors Hod Lipson and David I. Owen. Owen, the Bernard and Jane Schapiro Professor of Ancient Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, is the curator of Cornell's collection of nearly 10,000 cuneiform tablets from ancient Mesopotamia. Read more about Cornell's tablet collection at http://cuneiform.library.cornell.edu/. Owen and Lipson had the idea of implementing 3D scanning and 3D printing technology to create physical replicas of the tablets that look and feel almost exactly like the originals.

A Next Engine desktop 3D scanner was used to take 3D laser scans of the tablets. After scanning, the accompanying software, ScanStudio HD was used for post-processing and outputting 3D printable files of the tablets. With the VRML file format, prototypes were made (using ZCorp powder-based ink-jet printers) that match the look of the original tablets in color and texture. The software also has the ability to output the files in STL format for creating prints using other printing technologies (FDM, SLA, etc.) that do not retain color and texture matching.


Download your own tablets for printing (either VRML or STL format) below:

Figure: Original and 3D-printed cuneiform tablets: Left: original; Middle: 3D-printed reproduction; Right: Enlarged (x2) reproduction. Produced on ZCorp ZPrinter 650.



Figure: 3D-printed cuneiform tablets: Left: Enlarged (x2) 3D-printed reproduction; Middle: original size reproduction (produced on Objet printer); Right: original size reproduction (produced on ZCorp ZPrinter 650).


Next steps

We plan to continue this work in two directions: First , we plan to systematically scan and post additional reproduction of rare cuneiforms. Second, we will explore additional methods for scanning and manufacturing cuneiforms at higher resolutions appropriate for reproducing the fine details on the smaller tablets.



Knapp M., Wolff R., Lipson H. (2008), "Developing printable content: A repository for printable teaching models", Proceedings of the 19th Annual Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, Austin TX, Aug 2008.