Schoolchildren will be able to produce real blacksmith artefacts using the latest 3D-printer technology thanks to a grant of £31,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Led by Computer Scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, and Chain Bridge Forge in Spalding, the Heritage Craft Simulation project will provide a 21st Century take on blacksmithing by developing a ‘virtual craft simulator’.
The project aims to revive the process of crafting techniques and craftsmanship for a new generation.
Developing bespoke software and integrating human motion capture tracking sensors, users will be able to create their own artefact which can then be ‘printed’ as a keepsake.
Dr John Murray, from the University’s School of Computer Science, said: “The technology will teach the schoolchildren how to perform blacksmith tasks, giving them tips and allowing them to ‘work’ the material. The system would then 3D print their artefact as a memento of their crafting work. It is hoped that this would preserve the heritage for future generations. The long-term aim is to apply this technology to simulate all heritage crafts, such as pottery or materials.”
Heritage crafts played an important role for the local community, but many, including blacksmithing, have been in decline since the early 20th Century. It is hoped this project will pass on the knowledge and skills that were held by blacksmiths to help conserve the craft.
Dr Murray will be working with volunteers from Chain Bridge Forge in Spalding; an early 19th Century blacksmith’s workshop that has served as a museum and heritage centre since 2011.
The simulator will first be placed in the Forge but will then be showcased at major UK museums and heritage centres before being available for loan to schools.
Some of the funding will also be used to train 30 University of Lincoln students as blacksmiths to guide schoolchildren through the process.
Geoff Taylor, from Chain Bridge Forge, said: “We aim to allow people to try blacksmithing for themselves without the need to use dangerous and heavy equipment, or indeed without many years training as an apprentice. This project will allow schools to bring back exposure of these crafts to pupils in a new, modern and safe way.”