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Substituting ivory with a 3D-printable material

The desire to replace ivory and copy this treasured and at the same time ethically unjustifiable material is nothing new. Nevertheless, all commercially available replicas are deficient in the most important characteristics, especially the optical properties. Additionally, most of these materials are only available in bulk and not in the desired shape. Carving a replacement part out of either ivory or a bulk substitute can take a lot of time and is in most cases unaffordable.

In the course of this interdisciplinary research project of the TU Wien, Cubicure GmbH, The Department of Art and Preservation of Historical Monuments of the Archdiocese of Vienna and the restoration studio Addison KG, a 3D printable ivory substitute called “Digory” was developed to mimic not only the aesthetic but also the mechanical and haptic properties of ivory. The color and translucency are adjustable to resemble the original shade of individual ivory parts that are to be replaced. Also, the density and hardness values of Digory are comparable to ivory. With proper artistic post-processing the resemblance to natural ivory is additionally enhanced (Figure 1).


Figure 1: Pawns made of Digory with restorative post-processing.

To replace, for example, missing column capitals of the shrine of Friedrich III of Austria (Figure 2), 3D printing provides an elegant solution to reproduce the artwork exactly as intended by the original artist. For that, one of the ivory capitals was detached and scanned to create a 3D model of the complex structure, which can now easily be reprinted for each missing column (Figure 3).

Figure 2: State casket, so-called shrine of Friedrich III of Austria (*1289-+1330), of the Parish church of Mauerbach, made in the 17th century.

Figure 3: Comparison of the original ivory column capital of the shrine of Friedrich III of Austria and the 3D printed Digory replica.

Digory offers an elephant-friendly alternative to ivory and rediscovers its aesthetic benefits. On the one hand, it can be used for the high-quality restoration of valuable art objects and, on the other hand, it is suitable for everyday applications, such as jewelry or interior decoration. Digital ivory combines classic beauty with modern design and innovative technology with traditional handicrafts.


The Team:

The current team members (2021) left to right: Robert Gmeiner (Cubicure), Jürgen Stampfl (TU Wien), Thaddäa Rath (TU Wien), Konstanze Seidler (Cubicure), Elena Holzhausen (Archdiocese Vienna), Richard Addison (Addison Restoration).

The initial team members (2018) left to right: Richard Addison (Addison Restoration), Elena Holzhausen (Archdiocese Vienna), Bernhard Steyrer (Cubicure), Jürgen Stampfl (TU Wien), Otmar Martl (TU Wien), Thaddäa Rath (TU Wien).

Contact: Prof. J. Stampfl, Dipl.-Ing. Thaddäa Rath Funding: FFG: HSRM, Elfenbein3D Link 1: Link 2: