• Digitisation and 3D printing open a new era in the dissemination, conservation, restoration and recovery of historical and cultural heritage
  • The Romanesque arch of San Pedro de las Dueñas (León), from the National Archaeological Museum (MAN) collection, is the first architectural piece to be reproduced using 3D printing in concrete.
  • ACCIONA also digitised a total of 30 medieval items in the Museum so that visitors can manipulate them via an interactive screen

Spain's National Archaeological Museum (MAN) and ACCIONA presented today in Madrid the first architectural item of cultural heritage to be reproduced full-scale by means of 3D printing in concrete. It is a replica of the San Pedro de las Dueñas Arch, the original of which is part of the Museum's collection. As of today, the replica is located in the garden at the National Archaeological Museum.

This technological milestone is the result of a collaboration agreement between the National Archaeological Museum and ACCIONA with the aim of applying cutting-edge techniques that contribute to raising awareness and preserving Spain's historical heritage.

At the presentation ceremony, Andrés Carretero, director of the National Archaeological Museum, stressed that this development 'puts the Museum to the forefront worldwide in the application of new technologies to the disseminating and preservation of cultural heritage.'

Juan Ignacio Entrecanales, Executive Vice Chairman of ACCIONA, the company that printed the Arch, emphasized the need for a collaboration between the private sector and public institutions to drive innovation. He also highlighted 'the importance of this joint project between ACCIONA and the National Archaeological Museum, which has demonstrated the immense potential that new technologies, such as 3D printing, have for the preservation, dissemination, restoration and accessibility of cultural heritage'.

The agreement between the MAN and ACCIONA is part of the Museum's strategy to use technology to make history more accessible in its facilities and to contribute to technological advances in conservation techniques and the preservation of historical heritage.

Through this initiative, ACCIONA strengthens its position as an international leader in museography by developing and acquiring know-how for introducing the latest technologies into exhibition and museum spaces

The project and the selected works

The Dueñas Arch, a Romanesque arch 2.2 metres high and 3.3 metres wide dating from the 12th century, is one of the most emblematic items in the Romanesque collection of the National Archaeological Museum, which combines both architecture and sculpture.

The arch was reproduced using an innovative 3D printing technique in concrete (D-Shape technology). The durability of the material makes it possible, for the first time, to achieve an architectural reproduction that is suitable for outdoor locations, because of its ability to withstand weather conditions.

The project also included 3D scanning of a total of 30 works from the medieval collection. That group of works was selected to showcase some of the Museum's most outstanding pieces, ranging from the 4th to the 15th century: works from the Late Roman and Visigoth periods (4th to 7th centuries), from the Andalusi and Mudejar collections (8th-15th centuries), and others from medieval Christianity (9th-15th centuries).

 The true-to-life reproductions are displayed on a touch screen in the Medieval room, where visitors can manipulate them virtually in order to appreciate their artistic value. The digital models of the pieces can also assist greatly in future restorations, because this technology makes it possible to obtain perfect full or partial replicas of the pieces by means of 3D printing.

3D printing: an innovative construction and preservation technique

3D printing or additive manufacturing makes it possible to create a three-dimensional object by superimposing successive layers of material. This technique allows the production of highly complex pieces from digital 3D models.

Applied to construction, 3D printing allows the digitalisation of construction processes, as parts with a complex geometry and design can be made without using moulds, while automating construction environments and enhancing productivity.

In the field of the preservation of historical and cultural heritage, the combination of digitisation of the pieces and 3D printing from a high definition scan provides a way not only for documenting heritage items scientifically, for use in preservation, but also for making perfect replicas.

3D printing is therefore an ally of historical heritage. The possibility of obtaining exact replicas means that the public can approach the reproduction while the original is preserved. This technology also makes it possible to reproduce pieces in their original locations while the original is preserved in appropriate facilities.