For hundreds of years, the Swiss Guard has been wearing a distinctive, colorful uniform that protects the Pope and the Vatican City, with only minor changes over the years. This year they make a big change: the traditional metal helmet – called Morion – is replaced by a 3D print.
The uniforms and equipment of the Swiss Guard are marked by tradition. The modern uniform was introduced in 1914, inspired by works of art from the Renaissance, in which the soldiers were portrayed. Over the years, the Vatican has retained the traditional elements of the uniform and used blacksmiths to provide spare parts for their armor. Last year, the Swiss Guard announced it would replace the iconic helmet with a helmet made of PVC that is lighter and cheaper than its predecessors. This is not a trivial thing ̵
The first edition of 98 of these new helmets (a total of 120 were ordered) were delivered to the Vatican on January 22, the 513th anniversary of the founding of. These new helmets were designed using 16th century helmets scans and are printed in just 14 hours with an HP 3D printer, unlike the older metal printers, which took nearly 130 hours to produce.
The new Morions are also considerably lighter (570 grams in weight, the ones they replace weigh 2 kilograms), are UV-resistant and have vents to keep the soldiers' heads cooler. There is no compromise on the security of the soldiers either, says Swiss Guards Sergeant Urs Breitenmoser, because they are used for ceremonial purposes such as papal masses and state visits. This is an interesting example of where it can be useful in everyday life. Certainly, 3D printing was used in the construction of houses, parts for rocket engines, submarine prototypes and the construction of Star Wars costumes (among others). This instance is not quite as dramatic, but it's a great example of how technology can improve an existing item while retaining its traditional design and style.