The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 5, February 3, 2013, Article 19


Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on how 3D printing could affect numismatic literature. Thanks! -Editor

Get ready for a revolution in numismatic book publishing! Not only can your manuscripts be illustrated in color, but also in three dimensions!

Numismatic items can now be easily replicated, reproducing the relief the same height as original coins and medals and apply this to pages in a book. One machine, the Solidoodle, costs only $399, intended for desktop publishing for home use. Or for $350 you can obtain a kit to build your own to attach to your computer. These are about the size of an old 18-inch TV.

The technology is to add layers of material on top of each other in the shape controlled by the computer. By continuing to add layers it builds up to the height of the original. The material is usually plastic, but it can also be metal, ceramic, or even chocolate!

To add color it needs to be Pad Printed by another technology. I predict the two technologies will soon be merged in the future. Viola! You can have coin and medal images in color with realistic relief. Imagine numismatic books produced with such an innovative technology. It is cutting edge technology at present but with sustained demand in the future this could be developed into common used for future numismatic books.

Makerbot Replicator The present Pad printing technology is a German invention and these machines cost over $10,000. The best 3D machines so far, a MakerBot Replicator II, is a Dutch invention which costs $2,200.

Present limitation for Pad printing is an item less than 60mm, about 57mm would be about the largest item to be imaged in color. It could certainly print on the plastic even in relief. The Pad printer applies five separate colors -- or black and four colors similar to a color photocopier -- to the pad and this is impressed against the relief image and deposits all colors at once..

The result would not be different from embossed color printing first created in the 1890s in Austria. Publisher Alfred Joseph Blumel produced post cards of coins of the world. These were printed in color first on card stock, then impressed with embossing dies to achieve the relief images. His coin illustrations were current coins in circulation by countries.

He then gathered all these country coin images together in a bound book and dedicated this to the president of the United States. I guess he thought this would bring him the fame he sought for this innovation, but nothing much in the numismatic field was done after that. Embossed post card, however, became popular all throughout the 20th century

I am somewhat of a numismatic futurist. I see trends evolving in our modern world and project how these could be applied to numismatics. Therefore I see numismatic books published in the future with illustrations in realistic exact color in raised relief. I just cannot say when this will happen. Stay tuned to E-Sylum. It will be announced here first.

Here is what has been discussed in The E-Sylum about Blumel's coin cards:

The Dutch firm that manufactures Makerbot Replicator has opened a retail store in New York City. Here is an article in the Christian Science Monitor:

3D printing has been a long time in coming, but it's a natural progression of the technology. In fact, I own stock in one of the 3D printer makers, 3D Systems - their new home offering is The Cube, although I bought into the company because of their commercial 3D printers.

I hadn't considered the feasibility of 3D numismatic illustrations. I'm not sure if that would be economically viable for an entire book, but I could see some key illustrations being done this way. Or, perhaps, one could go online and download coin image files and print examples on a personal 3D printer.

The most common medium is plastic, but 3D printing has been done experimentally in various media. Some scientists believe we could be within ten years of printing replacement human organs. Could we one day print realistic replicas of rare coins as well? Time will tell. "Computer - 1794 Dollar, Specimen-66, with an adjustment mark at 10 o'clock". -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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