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While 3D printing techniques have been around for 30 years, it’s only recently that technology has advanced to the point where the process is economically feasible. The ability to quickly and accurately duplicate three dimensional objects is set to revolutionize the engineering and medical fields, leading to easier creation of both prototypes and production versions of precision components and prosthetics.

But in mankind’s heady rush into this exciting new field, many have overlooked a potentially life-altering application of 3D printing: reproducing Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The Japanese reporters at website Lifehacker recently paid a visit to the facilities of Yokohama-based 3D printing and data modeling firm iJet. The technicians at iJet offered to craft one item for the reporters, who made the unlikely selection of a drumstick.

Specifically, they chose a KFC Colonel’s Original Recipe chicken, which is really the only logical choice. KFC’s rival Popeye’s only operates on U.S. military bases in Japan, and while plenty of diners pick up their Christmas Eve fried chicken from MOS Burger, as the name implies, fried fowl is really more of a side business for the domestic chain. Add in the commonly recognized position of the drumstick as the monarch of the fried chicken cuts, and you can see why Lifehacker’s reporters arrived at their decision.

All joking aside, there may indeed be a viable business use for this sort of thing. Many Japanese restaurants have showcases with plastic models of their menu items, all the better to entice diners into their establishments. These models don’t come cheap however, and if 3D printing can provide a cheaper alternative to the often hand-made versions commonly used now, it may be the way of the future.

Before you can 3D print something, though, you need a model. While you could go through the process of rendering it from scratch, in the case of easily procurable things like a drumstick, it’s much easier to just bring in the genuine article.

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Of course, the 3D printing system is a group of machines and computers, not chefs. While it can recreate a sample precisely, it can’t make improvements on blemishes in the original model. With this in mind, iJet’s technician carefully placed the drumstick on the work table, taking care not to tear or damage its deliciously seasoned skin, and went to work with his 3D scanner.

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With the scanning process complete, the data was converted into a three-dimensional model displayed on a PC monitor. There’s a limit to the accuracy of the 3D scanner, however, especially when working with the countless contours and crevices in a drumstick, so the iJet’s technician began making corrections and revisions to the original data.

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Discrepancies in color can also show up, as the hues on automatically created models tend to look slightly washed out. “You can tell a good modeling technician by how close his manual adjustments get to the color of the real thing,” the iJet staff member explained.

With the data finalized, all that was left to do was to wait for iJet to ship the finished product. So how close does it come to the real thing?

▼ Pretty darned close

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The 3D-printed drumstick looks amazingly similar to the real one. True to the technician’s word, the color adjustments endowed it with a shiny glaze that mimics the greasy quality of actual fried chicken.

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▼ Even the bumpy texture of the seasoned skin is faithfully reproduced.

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Unfortunately, despite its appearance, the 3D printed KFC is not, after all, made of interlaced layers of cooked poultry. Instead, it’s a piece of colored gypsum, or plaster of Paris. This makes it heavier and also more fragile than an actual piece of fried chicken, so be careful if you and a friend start wrestling for the drumstick.

On the plus side, the completed 3D model means that iJet can adjust the scale however they want to. The company decided to shrink things down to make this elegant pair of KFC earrings.

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Not only are they a testament to the talent of iJet’s technicians, the shrunken drumstick accessories also mark the first time in human history that less fried chicken is awesome.

Source, images: Lifehacker Japan