Weeks before the Egyptian Revolution, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Cairo. When I visited the pyramids, I was shocked to see so many people climbing all over them. I had imagined we wouldn't be allowed to touch, let alone scale, something so ancient and valuable.
Such access has taken a toll on another Egyptian site: the burial chamber of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
"It was the constant changes, caused by the humidity of the breath and temperature of the visitors that had started to make the paint on the walls crack, and the plaster to fail.
It was decided that if something wasn't done, the chamber would deteriorate to the point where valuable artifacts would be lost."
Fortunately, 3D printing has come to its rescue. A Spanish-based 3D printing company undertook a five-year project to thoroughly 3D scan the tomb's interior and 3D print an exact replica.
Perhaps one of the most extensive examples of using additive manufacturing to preserve history, the Egyptian project is just one of many such efforts. For years, the Smithsonian Institution has also been scanning and printing a number of its artifacts: Smithsonian X 3D allows individuals to remotely "navigate, explore and manipulate 3D collection objects" And other museums have begun to reproduce valuables to make exhibits more interactive and accessible.