Witness a Marvel in Technology at the University Library

On the fourth floor of the library, there is a marvel in technological advancement in the shape of a 3D printer with the incredible ability to convert a tangible object into a digital 3D model.

According to Anna Proctor, digitization coordinator for the Center for Digital Scholarship, these printers have been in operation for about two years. Her earlier role in the project was working directly with the printers, where she would perform numerous scans and analyzation.

Despite the versatile potential of the scanner, it is mostly used in the preservation of ancient artifacts, art, and more.


Currently, the students directly in charge of the project collaborate with the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, where they’re able to scan and replicate numerous artifacts for preservation.

"Say there was some sort of natural disaster that destroyed the physical objects in this museum and then you would still have a digital replica that you could 3D print and see what it looked like,” Proctor explained. “They can also create specialized housing for the objects. To keep the real objects preserved you could use the measurements and the 3D print of the fake one to create a housing for the real object.”

Now in a more managerial position in the project, Proctor is responsible for overseeing the various projects students have conducted for the past couple semesters, and what she has seen students accomplish with the technology is truly an achievement to see. Since February 2017, these students have been able to replicate about 100 items from the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.

One of those students is Jessica Davenport, who takes on the role of a digital archivist as she has a background in 3D and is primarily responsible for organizing the project. She explained that while it’s used for these outside projects, the technology is still available for any students at IUPUI to use.

“The 3D-scanned objects will be great for anyone doing research on any sort of thing,” Davenport said. “For this project, it’s the Benjamin Harrison home, so it would be nice for anybody who’s doing research on Benjamin Harrison. They could actually see the objects that he used when he was in that house.”

The influence of the 3D printers have recently expanded beyond the boundaries of the campus and have been available for use by the entirety of the Indianapolis community.

“There are other 3D scanning projects out there that involve mapping cities so you can see cities in 3D,” Davenport explained.”There are people doing art history where they are scanning art objects. it’s definitely becoming more and more of a thing… it’s a tech that’s growing and it’s definitely a skill worth having at the moment.”

Photo courtesy of University Library

Photo courtesy of University Library

While it’s a true marvel of technology, the 3D scanner will continue to evolve in the future, with Davenport and Proctor even stating that the technology could be heading into the realm of VR.

“I think that it’s going to become more VR based. I know that there is a Virtual Reality lab that’s gonna hopefully be opening somewhere on IUPUI‘s campuses.” Davenport said, “They’ve talked about it from time to time, and then we’ll have objects that people can go in and walk around in space and see objects that have been scanned by people from the library. ”