Friday, April 4, 2014

Mezzanine Box Packing Stations

After receiving several exciting deliveries from our packaging suppliers, we have set up two box packing/artifact processing stations in the repository's Mezzanine. Our stations will be used by SA staff when Sustainable Archaeology has been contracted to re-package collections as part of a transfer. 

 Each station includes trays for laying out artifacts, polyethylene bags, polypropylene vials, clay desiccant and polyethylene foam from Uline, as well as other archival supplies from Gaylord, such as acid test pens (for testing whether packing tissue is acid-free) Paraloid B-72 resin (used to affix the tiny DM code catalogue numbers to artifacts), and gloves.

For more on Sustainable Archaeology's standards for packing collections, please visit our website and browse through our Procedures and Practices.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tracking our Progress

One of the reasons that we love sharing and updating Sustainable Archaeology's progress on our blog is the opportunity to look back at how far we have come - literally from the ground up! In March of 2011, our Ancient Images Laboratory was just concrete, an idea of what could be. Now, in March of 2014, we have a fully outfitted and functioning space that features our micro-CT scanner, digital x-ray, artifact photography stations, and 3D printer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3D Printing - testing size and colour

We have been running the 3D printer through its paces, working with scaling the printed objects, and with different processes and products for post-printing infiltration. 

Our test object was a small red projectile point. The point was first scanned in 2012 by the Sustainable Archaeology Animation Unit using the macro white light scanner.  

The untextured (left) and textured (right) scans of the point
In order to see how the printer was handling the detail captured in the original scans of the projectile point, we decided to print not only an original sized replica, but also one that was 2x larger, and one that was 3x larger.

Print in progress in the build bed

By scaling the model, we are able to better see with the naked eye the detail that was captured in the scan. Depending on the end user need, printing scaled versions of the scanned object may prove beneficial - for example, if there is detail not easily seen by the naked eye, or where we wish to isolate and print one segment of the object at a larger size in order to examine a specific feature of the original. For example, with our print, we are able to better see each flake scar on the point by examining the larger model, and could use the larger model to take measurements (converting to account for the size difference).

Scaled 3D prints (left to right): 3x larger; 2x larger; original size

Back side of the three printed points

In addition to testing scale, we were interested in testing how different infiltration products and methods affect the end product. We printed several copies of the point at its original size, and used the 3D Systems infiltrant Z-bond, as well as Paraloid B-72 resin, and the salt water infiltration we had previously used for our first print test.

Infiltrating the prints (left to right): Z-bond infiltrant; Paraloid B-72; salt water

Back of prints with different infiltrants (left to right): Z-bond; Paraloid B-72; salt water

As you can see from the images, the print infiltrated with the Z-bond demonstrates the most robust colour. The Paraloid resin offers a significant improvement over the salt water, and we plan to explore its use further, using different concentrations of the acrylic resin in acetone. As with scale, the end user need will help determine what infiltration product will be used with a print - for example if the user is interested in a print as a replication, or whether they simply wish to have a physical copy of the scanned object to handle and examine.

Comparison of the original artifact (left) with the Paraloid (center) and Z-bond (right) infiltrants

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Notes from the SA: Spring 2014 Newsletter

Our Spring 2014 newsletter features the upcoming Canadian Archaeological Association conference in London, ON, as well as updates on activities at both the Western and McMaster facilities. Scroll through the embedded PDF below, or download a copy from the Publications page of our website

Monday, February 10, 2014

3D printer training and our first test print

On February 6th and 7th, we received training for our 3D Systems ProJet 660Pro printer. Training included not only how to set up and complete a print using the software, but also essential steps such as the cleaning  of the machine that is required after the conclusion of each print. 

After completing the necessary setup, calibration, and print head alignment, we performed our first test print, using a scan of a small bone comb that had been completed using Sustainable Archaeology's white light 3D digitizers. To test the process of positioning objects in the build envelope using the software, we printed three copies of the same object.

Printing in progress.

After a print is completed, the parts must be carefully excavated from the excess powder in the build envelope. The parts are quite delicate prior to any post-processing treatment, and can easily be broken during removal from the powder. Our objects were particularly delicate, as to maximize our training time, we did not allow for the usual one to two hours of drying time generally recommended between the conclusion of the printing process and the start of post-processing.

Excavating the prints
For our first test, we experimented with one of the available post-processing techniques, which is infiltration using a solution of Epsom salts and water. We plan to experiment further in the coming weeks to determine what scanning procedures produce the best files for printing, and to determine what post-processing techniques will produce the best colour replication. 

Front and back views of the completed print
The final print (right) and the original object

Friday, January 24, 2014

January Arrivals at SA

Happy new year to our blog readers! We've had a busy January so far, welcoming two new arrivals to the facility: our (much anticipated!) 3D printer, and our new artifact cabinets. 


The 3D printer is a 3D Systems ProJet 660Pro from vendor Progressive Educational Systems Inc. The ProJet 660 uses a composite powder rather than plastic for its build material, and has the capability to create replication-quality pieces in full colour. Stay tuned for our inaugural "first print" post!

Interior view of the printer

In addition to the printer we received our Delta and Rousseau cabinets from Spacesaver Solutions Inc. The cabinets will be used to house special or fragile artifacts.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Happy Holidays from Sustainable Archaeology


Happy holidays to all of our blog readers! Another busy and productive year is drawing to  a close, and we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has expressed interest in and support for Sustainable Archaeology throughout the year. We look forward to sharing more stories and events with you through the blog in 2014. Highlights that we are already looking forward to include the delivery of our 3D printer sometime early in the new year, as well as events hosted at the facility during the 2014 Canadian Archaeological Association conference, to be held in London, Ontario this coming May.

From all of us at Sustainable Archaeology, best wishes for the new year!