Michelangelo’s David exhibits 17ft 3D printed ‘digital twin’ in Dubai
Michelangelo’s statue of the biblical hero David before he killed the giant Goliath is one of the most famous works of art in the world.
Today, 500 years after its creation, it is at the forefront of digital innovation.
Researchers at the University of Florence have created an exact replica of the Italian pavilion statue at this year’s Expo 2020 Dubai – using cutting-edge 3D printing technology.
The university’s engineering department started working with Swedish tech company Hexagon last year, says Grazia Tucci, professor of geometry at the University of Florence, who coordinated the project. While Michelangelo worked on the statue for three years, Tucci says it only took the team four months to create the replica.
“We now have the most faithful reproduction of the David,” said Tucci.
A team from the Engineering School of the University of Florence, while scanning the original David. Grazia Tucci (right) led the collaborative project. Credit: Massimo Sestini for ItalyExpo2020
‘A digital twin’
The team took thousands of digital scans of the 17-foot-tall statue. According to Tucci, the size of the sculpture was a constant challenge: the team had to build a special tripod to scan David from head to toe, and finding a 3D printer large enough to produce the replica in one piece was impossible. Instead, the statue was split into 14 printable pieces and then assembled by hand.
Tucci calls the new statue a “digital twin” and says the methodology his team uses presents a new way to preserve cultural heritage. Right now, the proprietary technology is not publicly available, but Tucci said she hopes it will be shared for the benefit of more historic artwork.
The new “digital twin” is made of acrylic resin and weighs 10 times less than the original. Credit: Massimo Sestini for ItalyExpo2020
‘Theater of memory’
“We want to be ambassadors of a new Renaissance, bringing here one of the historic works of art that can be found in Italy,” said Glisenti. The Italian pavilion evokes the past in new and imaginative ways, mixing “memory and contemporary technology” to suggest a future that is both digital and anchored in traditional arts, he adds.
Expo 2020, which begins in October after being delayed for a year by Covid-19, will lead the way in a post-pandemic world, creating solutions in sustainability and technology, Glisenti said. “It is the perfect point for the world to show our vision for the future.”
The 3D printed statue arrived in Dubai last month for Expo 2020, which begins in October. Credit: Massimo Sestini for ItalyExpo2020
New hope for tourism
As tourism picks up, Digital David is a new opportunity for Italy and Florence to show their artistic ingenuity to the world, said Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence. The 3D printed statue is a “representation of how humanity is now reaching a very sophisticated level in technology and creativity,” Nardella said.
Michelangelo spent three years carving the original statue, while the new version took just four months to scan, print and assemble. Credit: Massimo Sestini for ItalyExpo2020
“David is a symbol of prosperity, a symbol of energy, of freedom and above all a symbol of peace,” he said. “So this event is a great opportunity for our spirit and to reclaim our city and our ancient arts in Italy.”