This article addresses virtual and physical prototyping of some symmetrical patterns collected from the Ainu cultural heritage. The indigenous people living in the northern part of Japan (e.g., Hokkaido), known as Ainu, often decorate their houses, clothing, ornaments, utensils, and spiritual goods using some unique patterns. The patterns carry their identity as well as their sense of aesthetics. Nowadays, different kinds of souvenirs and cultural artifacts crafted with Ainu patterns are cherished by many individuals in Japan and abroad. Thus, the Ainu patterns carry both cultural and commercial significance. A great deal of craftsmanship is needed to produce the Ainu patterns precisely. There is a lack of human resources having such craftsmanship. It will remain the same in the foreseeable future. Thus, there is a pressing need to preserve such craftsmanship. Digital manufacturing technology can be used to preserve the Ainu pattern-making craftsmanship. From this perspective, this article presents a methodology to create both virtual and physical prototypes of Ainu patterns using digital manufacturing technology. In particular, a point cloud-based approach was adopted to model the patterns. A point cloud representing a pattern was then used to create a virtual prototype of the pattern in the form of a solid CAD model. The triangulation data of each solid CAD model were then used to run a 3D printer to produce a physical prototype (replica of the pattern). The virtual and physical prototypes of both basic (Hokkaido) Ainu motifs and some synthesized patterns were reproduced using the presented methodology. The findings of this study will help those who want to digitize the craftsmanship of culturally significant artifacts without using a 3D scanner or image processing.
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