3D printing brings distant artifacts to FIU

The additional 3D printers at the FIU Art + Art History Department‘s Digital Media Laboratory have been another step for FIU towards the direction of being a modern, innovative institution. FIU Art + Art History has pushed the limits of this new, creative realm in the Artist Studio building that is a short walk from the FIU Stadium on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus.


FIU Art + Art History’s to-scale, 3D printed replica of the ancient Venus of Willendorf. The original is approximately 25,000 years old and is housed more than 5,000 miles away in Vienna.

“Desktop 3D printing is changing the way we think, work and create things,” said Makerbot CEO Jonathan Jaglom at the opening of the Makerbot-filled CARTA Innovation Lab at The FIU College of Architecture + The Arts | Miami Beach Urban Studios. “FIU is taking the lead in unlocking the creative potential of this transformative technology to art students.”

Adjunct Lecturer of Art History M. Stephanie Chancy worked with department chair Jacek Kolasinski to 3D print a replica of a famous artifact at the Digital Media Lab. Chancy approached Ricardo Lugo, the Digital Media lab supervisor, who completed the task of printing the Venus of Willendorf, a four-and-a-half-inch statuette that was carved about 25,000 years ago and is housed in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. Lugo used a 3D printing file from the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program.

“3D prints allow the art historian to bring the pieces into the classroom, enabling students to observe details like size and decorative elements that they might not notice in an image reproduced in a book or projected on-screen,” says Chancy. “Understanding an artwork’s context and function is enhanced when you can look at it from every angle and see everything.”

Chancy now possesses an exact replica of the Venus of Willendorf. Chancy and interested students can now view this 3D printed replica of the original. Otherwise, FIU faculty and students would have to travel over 5,000 miles to closely study the original in Vienna. With the help of 3D printing, FIU students can examine every curve and detail of the Venus of Willendorf.

Adjunct Lecturer of Art History M. Stephanie Chancy with the 3D printed replica of the ancient Venus of Willendorf.

Art history student Ana Briz is proud that FIU Art + Art History’s own Digital Media Lab has produced learning tools such as the “Venus.” She sees this as a step forward for The College of Architecture + Arts, as well as for FIU as a whole.

“It opens up the opportunity to do further research on artifacts that are not readily available,” Briz says. “I think the differences between whether a work is a facsimile, a 3D printed replica, or an ‘authentic’ original also creates an important dialogue that can be analyzed.”

In addition to being an FIU student, Briz is an assistant in events management at the Miami Beach Urban Studios. She sees the 30 Makerbot 3D printers working almost constantly in the CARTA Innovation Lab, which has made FIU the first university in the United States to house a MakerBot Innovation Center in a college focused on design and the arts.

“I think the involvement FIU has had with 3D printing within the last year is a particularly important step forward in expanding the curriculum and what is offered to students,” Briz says. “It certainly fits in line with being Worlds Ahead, for it encourages the engagement of this developing medium in innovative and inspiring ways.”

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