Advanced technologies bring China's shipwreck cultural relics back to life

(People's Daily Online) 15:24, November 01, 2022

Recently, a 3D-printed version of the Gatling gun salvaged from the cruiser Zhiyuan, also known as Chih Yuen, which is one of the major battleships of the Beiyang Fleet of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), drew crowds of visitors during an exhibition showcasing the country's major achievements in the protection and utilization of cultural relics in the new era in Beijing.

The exhibition was organized by the China Academy of Cultural Heritage (CACH) under the guidance of the National Cultural Heritage Administration.

Photo shows 3D-printed versions of the Gatling gun salvaged from the cruiser Zhiyuan, also known as Chih Yuen. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

Many artifacts were excavated from the shipwreck between 2014 and 2016, including a monocle inscribed with the name "Chin Kin Kuai”, chief mate of the cruiser, a ceramic plate inked with the name "Chih Yuen”, and weapons such as a bronze Gatling gun.

In the case of the Gatling gun, a laboratory under CACH produced parts of the gun by adopting 3D laser scanning and 3D printing technology, then developed a software suite to display the artifact.

The lab analyzed the material the Gatling gun was made from, as well as the coagula and corrosion products on the gun's surface through scanning electron microscopy, energy spectrum analysis, X-ray diffraction analysis, chromaticity test, and ion chromatograph, according to Tian Xingling, a researcher with the CACH.

The lab also determined the internal structure of the Gatling gun by using a particle accelerator and a highly-sensitive imaging system.

Using 3D laser scanning technology, the lab recorded all the information on the cultural relics before and after protection. In addition, photos and videos of the entire process of protection such as cleaning, desalination, removal of coagula, rust removal, corrosion inhibition and sealing of the Gatling gun were kept. Based on the gun's 3D laser digital information, the lab developed a 3D model and a 3D display system.

Visitors were able to experience the display system, which showcases the Gatling gun and stories about it, its value, the simulated protection process, records of the entire process of protection, and a comparison of the gun before and after protection.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Du Mingming)


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