In 1485 King Richard III lost his life in the Battle of Bosworth Field. It was the decisive battle in the War of the Roses and his death effectively ended the Plantagenet claim to the throne of England. Richard's body was stripped of its finery and he was buried without ceremony by the Grey Friars in Leicester. For five centuries his grave remained unmarked, undisturbed and unnoticed as the Grey Friars moved away and time marched on.

In 2012 the University of Leicester, in partnership with the Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society discovered the location of the five hundred year old monastery underneath a city council parking lot. They located King Richard III's remains and exhumed his body.

Richard had suffered extensive battle wounds including one that sheared off the bottom part of his skull. The scientists believe he was brought to the Grey Friars some time after the battle where his hands were tied together and he was dumped unceremoniously into a shallow grave.

Richard III's unearthed skeleton

After all of the scientific testing was complete, the Leicester City Council decided to give Richard a memorial service and a proper burial. Before they laid him to rest for the final time however, they wanted to create a replica of his skull that could be studied by future generations.

Engineers from Loughborough's School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering were asked to make the replica of Richard's skull using the latest 3D printing techniques. They worked with scans from King Richard III's skeleton and cleaned them up with Materialise's Mimics Innovation Suite. "Generating the first 3D computer models was a very exciting moment," said Professor Russell Harris, who spearheaded the project.

King Richard's skull was printed with an EOS Formiga P100 SLS printer

With the computer models in place, Harris' team used a selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing method to replicate Richard's skeleton. During SLS a laser is fired into tiny, powdery particles of plastic, metal, ceramic or glass. One layer at a time, King Richard's skeleton emerged from the machine. "Seeing the skull of Richard III emerge from the powder of the laser sintering machine in physical form was incredible," Harris said. "It was quite clear to see a number of the significant injuries that he had sustained in battle, and at last the greater story of how the King met his death can be told. Recording various aspects of the remains, in both electronic and physical form, will be invaluable for future studies."

Professor Russell Harris with Richard III's skull  post build

The team produced a short video that shows Richard III being 3D printed. You can take a look at it here:

This isn't the first time 3D printing has been used to resurrect royalty. The mummified remains of King Tut have also been replicated and put on display thanks to 3D printing technology.