Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Enterprise Awards 2013

Cultural Impact

King Richard III skull

Latest 3D printing technique re-creates medieval monarch

Academic expertise
Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
Lead academics
Professor Russell Harris
Loughborough collaborators
David Thompson and Dr Darren Watts

In the late summer of 2012, the remains of Richard III were unearthed in Leicester by archaeologists from the University of Leicester – following years of work to locate them – and will be reinterred in the city’s Cathedral.

Experts from Loughborough’s Additive Manufacturing Research Group were invited to make a replica of the skeleton, so that more can be learnt about the medieval king and how he died.

Scans of the remains taken by the Leicester Royal Infirmary were sent to Loughborough and transformed into a 3D computer model. This virtual model was then used to create a physical replica of the skull – via laser sintering – and work on the full skeleton is underway.

The technique deploys a high power laser to fuse small particles of materials – in this case plastic – into a mass that has a three-dimensional shape.

The University’s 3D printing and additive manufacturing activities span a great number of disciplines – now including archaeology.

The completed skeleton will form part of a permanent exhibition at Leicester’s Visitors’ Centre.

View press release

View film showing laser sintering of skull

Impact

  • Successful inter-disciplinary partnership between neighbouring universities
  • A lasting historical legacy
  • During its first month over 26,000 people attended the Richard III exhibition in Leicester Guildhall in which the Loughborough models is a centre piece
  • The work has had an extremely positive impact on promoting Leicester and Leicestershire and expanding its cultural attractions
  • Widespread media coverage, including a BBC news feature on the production of the skull at Loughborough

Lead Archaeologist praises Loughborough expertise:

Our colleagues at Loughborough … provided a resource for future generations of researchers to examine long after the King’s remains have been reinterred. Most importantly, this remarkable process has captured the imagination of the general public who continue to be fascinated by this representation of a past King and levels of engagement and interest in the whole project have soared. Their technical contribution was invaluable and their willingness to support the wider team in promoting public awareness of the find was hugely beneficial.

Richard Buckley
Director and Lead Archaeologist in the ‘Search for Richard III’ Project

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