The result? What the Smithsonian says is the "largest 3D printed museum quality historical replica" on Earth. And now, it's also the showpiece that begins a much larger effort at the world's biggest museum and research institution: a move to create digital 3D models and physical 3D prints of a wide variety of the objects in its archive.
This could have a profound effect if the effort is successful over time. Visitors to the Smithsonian's many arms see just 2 percent of its giant collection, and widespread digitization could mean that the archives are opened up--virtually, at least--to people throughout the country and the world. And that could be a boon to both researchers and educators, as well as students everywhere.
Plus, the museum itself is likely to be able to display a growing number of sophisticated 3D printed models and replicas, with Jefferson being just the first example.
In order to create the 3D model of Thomas Jefferson, RedEye on Demand used a 3D printer capable of both museum quality finish and museum-scale size. These are Jefferson's legs.
The replica statue was made from production-grade thermoplastics, meaning that the final product should be strong and durable. RedEye on Demand used what it calls a "sparse-fill technique" for the statue's interior. That's a process that's similar to honeycomb and means that the statue is light and relatively inexpensive, yet high quality and strong.
One of the 3D printed Thomas Jefferson replica statue's legs, which will be part of the final exhibit at the National Museum of African-American History.
The four parts of the 3D printed statue are seen here unpainted.
Here, we see the statue in an unfinished state, with some of the paint having already been applied.
By now, the statue has been painted with the bronze color that visitors to the exhibit will see--and which mimic the actual statue at Monticello.
It's hard to tell in a close-up that this is a 3D printed model and not an actual bronze statue.
Here, we see the final product on display at the National Museum of African-American History.