Fracturing Artefacts into 3D Printable Puzzles to Enhance Audience Engagement with Heritage Collections

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Three-dimensional (3D) puzzles of heritage artefacts are typically used to engage audiences in the interpretation of archaeological objects in a museum gallery. The reason for this is that a puzzle can be seen as an enjoyable educational activity in the form of a game but also as a complex activity that archaeologists undertake when re-assembling fragments, for instance, of broken pottery. Until now the creation of this type of experiences is mostly a manual process and the artefacts used rarely reflect those in the collection due to the complex nature of the process. The contribution of this article is a novel digital worfklow for the design and fabrication of 3D puzzles that overcomes these limitations. The input to the workflow is an authentic artefact from a heritage collection, which is then digitised using technologies such as 3D scanning and 3D modelling. Thereafter, a puzzle generator system produces the puzzle pieces using a cell fracture algorithm and generates a set of puzzle pieces (female) and a single core piece (male) for fabrication. Finally, the pieces are fabricated using 3D printing technology and post-processed to facilitate the puzzle assembly. To demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed novel workflow, we deployed it to create a puzzle activity of the Saltdean urn, which is exhibited at the Archaeology Gallery of the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. The workflow is also used with further artefacts to demonstrate its applicability to other shapes. The significance of this research is that it eases the task of creating puzzle-like activities and maintaining them in the long term within a busy public space such as a museum gallery.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3351343
JournalACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2020


  • cultural heritage
  • 3D printing
  • gallery design
  • hands-on activities
  • educational puzzles
  • Educational puzzles
  • Hands-on activities
  • Cultural heritage
  • Gallery design


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