What 3D Printing Can Do for the Restoration of Notre-Dame

The restoration of the iconic Notre-Dame causes some problems as most historical building materials such as Lutetian limestone are not available anymore. But unexpected help comes from the printing sector, as it is possible to 3D-print perfect replicas from the original material.

Article about how 3D printing can help when rebuilding Notre-Dame

The whole world held its breath on this year’s April 15, when Paris’ most famous cathedral Notre-Dame caught fire. The damages on the 850-year-old Gothic building were massive and the roof and spire were nearly completely destroyed. In the aftermath of this catastrophe, many discussions came up about how to restore and finance it. The recently published, controversial five-year reconstruction goal set up by the French government fuelled the discussions even more. Notwithstanding these obstacles, there is another major problem obstructing the restoration plans: It is nearly impossible to rebuild Notre-Dame in its old form.

3D Printing vs. Historical Materials

The historical materials, which are needed to build the cathedral authentically, such as the enormous Beachwood beams and the Lutetian limestone are not available anymore. There are no trees of this size in France and the stone quarries for the limestone are deep underneath the Paris cityscape. Furthermore, experts with the technical know-how for specialized tasks like stonemasonry and woodworking are very hard to find. A British architect and expert for restoration, who helped to restore Windsor Castle, stated that this lack of skills definitely results in an increased time exposure for the whole project.

Facing these problems, many modern architects tried to find out, if it is necessary to rebuild Notre-Dame as close to its original condition as possible. Or could it be more efficient to solve the problem of 14th-century obstacles with 21st-century capabilities?

The almost complete digital recording of the cathedral benefits the restoration of Notre-Dame. We owe this at least in part to the fantastic and detailed work of the gaming company Ubisoft, which recreated a virtual cathedral for its game Assassin’s Creed Unity using old maps, photographs and drawings.

With this digital information it would be possible to use 3D printing to rebuild parts of Notre-Dame more efficient and at a lower price. Furthermore, the use of 3D printing technologies would perfectly fit the French government’s commitment to authenticity, as the authenticity of the final product is not negated by the methods or materials used. Indeed, the combination of digital information, historical design and advanced 3D printing techniques is able to produce perfect replicas which are in no way inferior to the old parts.

An Exciting Trial Run to Rebuild Notre-Dame

The Dutch company Concr3de has even already made a little test run and reprinted one of the famous gargoyles. Using a mixture of limestone and ash, very similar to the original materials of Notre-Dame, the replacement is as authentical as possible. Furthermore, it is possible to use the damaged materials of the cathedral as new resources for the 3D printing process giving them a second life. What was done by manual skill and labour can now be printed autonomously without losing the historical charm and authenticity.

Dimensional Innovations, a company from Kansas City, even want to 3D-print the entire spire. They are pitching their innovative project in a call for designs by France. In fact, that’s a method, which is not just a trend, as companies all over the world are already building complete houses by using 3D printing.

The tragedy of Note-Dame, as sad as it is, offers a great chance for 3D printing technology to prove its diverse application areas such as rescuing a historical and therefore important building without all the obstacles and problems a common restoration brings along. France is able to recreate a one-of-a-kind monument featuring the state-of-the-art technology of the 14th-century with today’s technology-pinnacle.

What do you think about rebuilding Notre Dame from its own ashes trough 3D printing? Is it an innovative new method or should the cathedral be recreated the classic way? Leave us a comment.