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China prints movable grotto with 3D technology
2018-10-17 

Supported by 3D printing technology, the movable replica of a cave in the Yungang Grottoes, a 1,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site, has passed experts' tests this week.

The undated photo shows the world's largest movable grotto printed by 3D technology. [Photo: sohu.com]

The undated photo shows the world's largest movable grotto printed by 3D technology. [Photo: sohu.com]

The Yungang Grottoes Research Institute in northern China's Shanxi Province claimed it to be the world's largest movable grotto printed by 3D technology.

Weighing less than five tonnes, the full-size reproduced grotto is 14 meters in length, 11 meters in width and nine meters in height.

The project was launched by the institute, Zhejiang University and a Shenzhen-based company, and it is based on the original cave No. 12, also called "Cave of Music," in the Yungang Grottoes.

Zhang Zhuo, head of the institute, said that this cave represents the highest artistic level of Yungang. It incorporates carved statues playing Chinese and Western musical instruments.

The research team collected high precision 3D data and kept error within two millimeters. The main body of the replica was made of resinous material, and the printing process took around six months.

"We plan to color it with mineral pigments before the end of this year. In this way, the replica will maintain its original size, texture and color," Zhang said.

The reproduction can be divided into various parts and be pieced together within a week. Zhang said that in the future it will be added to the exhibition tours along with the institute's other cultural relics.

Over the past 20 years, the institute has long hoped to show the grottoes worldwide and share the ancient Chinese engraving art. With digital technology advancements in recent years, the dream has become a reality.

In December of last year, three 3D reproductions of Buddhist statues in the Yungang Grottoes were displayed in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao. However, the time it takes to install the displays is lengthy, and they are not able to be moved.

More than 59,000 statues were carved in 45 caves in the Yungang Grottoes, which was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2001.

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