Obama 3D portrait
Smithsonian Institute

US President Barack Obama has become the first world leader to be scanned by 3D printer.

A Smithsonian Institution- led team of digital imaging specialists scanned the facial and bust data of the president earlier this year and reproduced it with a 3D printer.

The portrait was displayed at the first White House Maker Faire, which promotes the use of new tools and techniques to launch businesses and learn new skills.

"We worked with a team from the University of Southern California, who use this technology to 3D-scan Hollywood actors," said Vincent Rossi, a Smithsonian 3D expert who took part in the project.

"[First], we 3D-scanned the face, ear to ear, at extremely high resolution, capturing details down to the pore level of the skin.

"And then the Smithsonian 3D team used hand-held structured light scanners to scan the rest of the bust — the sides of the face, under the chin, the back of the head. We put these two data sets together in order to create the model we used for the 3D print."

Rossi said Obama, who hosted the Maker Faire, asked questions about the five-minute scanning procedure.

"He was interested in the technology," added Rossi. "There's a lot of people taking selfies with the 3D print of the president."

Günter Waibel, ‎director of the Digitisation Programme Office said: "We think we've really added a new genre to portraiture. It will be fascinating to see how that will be picked up and how down the line other administrations will also use that particular tool.

"[It] really has the potential to connect people to his life and times and legacy with an immediacy that a simple photograph or a painting simply cannot convey.

The 3D portrait is expected to join the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.