The Smithsonian and RedEye on Demand have partnered up to print a life size, 3D statue of Thomas Jefferson. The statue was featured in the Smithsonian's exhibit, "Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty."

The Smithsonian already had a life-size bronze statue of Jefferson, but moving it from its Monticello location wasn't feasible. They decided to consult RedEye instead.

"Many 3D laser scans were taken of the existing Monticello statue from different angles, pieced together and sent to RedEye as a digital model," said Dorey Butter, Project Manager at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

Once RedEye had the plans, the project was handed over to specialists Schrempp and Perry Hubbling.

"One of the main reasons the Smithsonian came to us was to reduce its costs," said Hubbling. "Our main concern was to minimize the amount of support material during the build. That has a big influence on the build time and thus the cost.  The outer wall of the statue is about .075 of an inch thick, and the inside looks like a honeycomb."

Cost reduction wasn't the only problem RedEye faced though. The statue of Jefferson turned out to be too large a job for their printers to handle in one piece.

"The biggest challenge was figuring out where to split Jefferson, as the model was too large for even the largest Fortus 900 3D Production System," Hubbing said. They settled on splitting the statue into four parts, with cuts through the middle of both thighs, and his chest.

Jefferson was printed using a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) system. During FDM, plastic filament flows through the 3D printer's extrusion head in a semi-liquid state. The head can build the material in layers as fine as 0.005-inch thick. Since the inside of the statue uses a honeycomb model, they were able to build with a minimum of support material.  That makes Jefferson much less expensive (and much easier to move) than his bronze counterpart in Monticello.

Once the statue was printed, it was bonded together using pegs, and finished multiple times to make it look like bronze.

"Post-production included some sanding, a bronze fill finish, a few coats of a sandfill primer, additional sanding then gold paint," said Vince Rossi, 3D Digitization Coordinator for the Smithsonian. "Then black wax was added to give it a bronze effect."

The total build time for Thomas Jefferson was 396 hours.