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New Video Provides a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the First 3D-Printed Presidential Portraits

The White House releases a new behind-the-scenes video showing how the very first 3D-printed bust of a President was made.

Something big happened earlier this year at the White House Maker Faire

The very first 3D-printed bust of a sitting U.S. president made its debut.

The bust of President Obama was created by a Smithsonian-led team of 3D-digital-imaging specialists, Autodesk and 3D Systems, in collaboration with the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. It took two different technologically sophisticated 3D documentation processes to generate the data needed to create this portrait.

And today, the White House is releasing a new behind-the-scenes video showing how that bust was made.

The video showcases the full process of scanning, creating, and printing the historic portrait -- which will also be on view in the Commons Gallery of the Smithsonian Castle starting today. 

Watch and learn more about the scanner that the Institute for Creative Technologies team used to create the image, as well as the handheld 3D scanners and traditional SLR cameras used to create an accurate representation. The video also highlights the post-processing of the data and the actual 3D-printing process using hi-resolution printers.

The video illustrates the innovative capabilities of 3D scanning, modeling, and printing. The versatility of these technologies can be seen in their various applications to different fields, from bioengineering and space to sustainable design.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said that “3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” More recently at the first-ever White House Maker Faire, he highlighted the importance of 3D printing and other technologies enabling individuals to tinker, invent, build, and make things. The democratization of tools and technologies like 3D printing has the potential to create more opportunities to engage students in STEM education, facilitate entrepreneurship, and boost advanced manufacturing in the United States. 

The video and exhibit of the 3D portraits are part of an ongoing effort by the Administration to call attention to the significance of the Maker Movement this year. The White House hosted the Maker Faire in June, and more recently, launched the 3D-Printed Ornament Design Challenge in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.

Stephanie Santoso is the OSTP Senior Advisor for Making.