Priceless Paintings – Scanned And Printed In 3D


When we think of works by Van Gogh and Rembrandt, most of us remember a picture, but we aren’t accustomed to seeing the actual painting. [Tim Zaman], a scientist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, realized that the material presence of the paint conveys meaning as well. He wanted to create a lifelike reproduction in full dimension and color. While a common laser-based technique could have been used for depth mapping, resolution is dependent on the width of the line or dot, and the camera cannot capture color data simultaneously with this method. In his thesis, [Tim] goes into great detail on a hybrid imaging technique involving two cameras and a projector. He and his team eventually used two 40-megapixel Nikon cameras in conjunction with a fringe projector to capture a topographical map with in-plane resolution of  50 μm, and depth resolution of 9.2 μm.

We can’t find a lot of information on the printing process they used, other than references to high-resolution 3D printers by Océ (a Canon company). That said, [Tim] has provided a plethora of images of some of the reproductions, and we have to say they look amazing. The inclusion of depth information takes this a big step further than that gigapixel scanning setup we saw recently.

Check out the BBC interview with Tim, as well as time lapse videos of the scanning and printing process after the break.

BBC Interview:



25 thoughts on “Priceless Paintings – Scanned And Printed In 3D

    1. They were made using RTV silicone molds of the original paintings then high resolution images were printed onto thin sheets of thermoplastic which was vacuum formed over the silicone mold to duplicate the texture of the brush strokes.

      1. Was Andy Warhol involved in that project? It sounds like something he’d be into to me. All you need to do is find someone willing to let you pour RTV all over their Van Gogh. Good luck there!

  1. The printing process that OCE is using is in the base an inkjet printer, and just put lots of layers of ink on top of each-other. That’s how they explained it to me on a event where they where showing off results like this.

  2. Not a “hack” in any way.

    Though interesting in and of itself, one must ask if this is the place for this sort of post.

    My thought is that this is indicative of the general editorial decline in HackADay over the past few months. I now visit no more than once a day and am frequently disappointed with the postings.

    1. Hahah, I swear I’ve seen at least one of these comments in every second or third article on this site for the past several years.

      If every person who said the site was declining had even an inkling of truth to it, this site would have been abandoned years ago.

      It’s just so silly that people always remember the grass being greener than it was..

      1. A lot of people haven’t really figured out that just because it’s called hackaday doesn’t mean EVERY post has to be a hack. It’s like how science magazines run columns on “science & society” talking about stuff like science education.

    2. The way I look at posts like this is that they bring some more advanced techniques to a larger audience. Stuff like this is done by people with much greater resources than your average DIYer. However, by showing us these things we can take the idea and develop it further or use it for our own ends, or ignore it if we please.

      Personally, I have no use for this technique, at least right now I don’t. But I appreciate knowing that it’s possible and if/when I need something like this in the future, I will look it up and adapt it for my own uses. If I didn’t know about this, I may not think of doing it this way, and even if I did I’d still have to start from scratch. At least knowing about this work allows me to build on his knowledge.

      Just my 2¢.

      1. Well since 3D printers are now so popular, I think if you could put realistic structure on the 3D printed objects it would enhance them in various circumstances, so we need a way to make 3D layers of much higher resolution than normal 3D printers can and a way to apply a sheet of such to existing 3D prints, so plenty of hacks are needed, or for now, ideas how that could be done.

    3. [ stepping up on the soapbox] You know I have wonder if those who post comments similar The one made by on_three to this post are actually builders, DIY types, hackers, makers. I do so because that the aforementioned use technology, rarely dismiss learning about new or updated tech, to see if there is anything they can grab. Did I see anything here that sparked an idea? No, but I’d bet a dollar to a dog turd any hacker who paints will be doing more experimenting with brush strokes after seeing those 3D images I’ll probably die without seeing a 3D printer or lase cutter installation, much less use one, but I still read the articles concerning them. [stepping off soap box now]

      1. As both a programmer, hack of a circuit builder, photographer, and an artist, i see lots of options from these videos. It helps that i love to see the brush strokes on paintings, and seeing them as almost terrain maps is gorgeous.

        So, how could this be hacked? Structured light scanning isn’t too hard. Instead of 40 MP camera, a macro kit (bellows or ext rings) and what ever you have should work.

        And is it telling that i really wish i could afford a higher depth mapped print of Van Vogh’s pot of sunflowers with ‘for Amy’ snuck on there?

  3. All of that trouble and it still isn’t a Van Gogh, or a Rembrandt. I’m sure it is still pretty nice. I’ll be more impressed when someone makes a machine that can create original works on par with Van Gogh, or Rembrandt. I’m not holding my breath for that breakthrough though.

    1. It’s not about creating new art; it’s about preserving existing art in a format other than a flat image, and studying the fine details and techniques in a way that you can share not just analysis of what you discover but also the “raw data” with people who can’t travel to see the real thing.

      Even if this does only produce “prints” that preserve details of technique, I think that’d still be a pretty neat outcome. I’d like to be able to own a copy of a painting that preserves more of the sensory experience. I think it’s important not to get hung up on it not being *authentic.* Down that road lies madness. Also pretentious, wordy Frenchmen, but mostly madness.

      1. Madness is not clearly understanding why authentic art has intrinsic value. I’m afraid I cannot help you there because I am not a pretentious, wordy Frenchmen. Perhaps you should seek one of those out though, to help you with your shortcomings. Meanwhile I’ll stay here comfortable in the knowledge that my genuine Picasso that I do happen to possess is in fact quite a valuable artifact. Whether you realize it, or not.

    1. doh, I’m an idiot. The first movie was this one… guess my flashblocker is working
      still, the main reason he is doing this is for digitalization old artifacts… so that it never gets lost. This opens up endless possibilities for other researchers as well, as they can now take a closer look at paintings they normally would never be allowed to inspect so close.

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