In addition to closely resembling real ivory, the technology makes it possible to restore old art objects with great precision in a short amount of time.
Although there has been a ban on international ivory trading since 1989, tens of thousands of elephants are still poached for their tusks every year, a trend that’s slowly pushing some endangered species to the brink of extinction. A team of scientists has recently developed a high-quality ivory alternative to restore art, and it could also lower the demand for real ivory and save elephants from poaching.
Ivory has been used for centuries to make fine art objects as a symbol of chastity and virtue. But since the 1989 ban on the international trade of ivory, art restorers have been left with a tiny amount of ivory.
Among these art restorers is historian Richard Addison, who found himself without sufficient material to restore an intricate 17th century Venetian Vitrine. The historic art piece originally had 24 decorative columns, partially made of ivory. Mr. Addison needed to replace 18 of those which had been lost over time, but carving ivory was out of the question because of ethical concerns.
“As 3D printing is increasingly applied in restoration, I approached the Technical University of Vienna with this dilemma and was fortunate to be introduced to Prof. Jürgen Stampfl who enthusiastically set the ball rolling and gathered a team together to embrace the challenge,” Mr. Addison told Euronews Green.
For the project, the team partnered with 3D printing company Cubicure GmbH and have come up with an elephant-friendly ivory alternative, named ‘Digory’. The new material is made out of synthetic resin and calcium phosphate particles. In addition to closely resembling real ivory, the technology makes it possible to restore old art objects with great precision in a short amount of time.
“It is very similar in its properties to ivory and with careful aging and polishing by the restorer, it provides a huge step forward for the restoration profession whilst protecting the elephant population of the world,” said Mr. Addison.