Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day: 3D Scanner Style

Earth day calls to mind adorable children participating in recycling drives and tree planting ceremonies, spending time in nature, and using 3D scanners to help companies create sustainable products!

Well, at least at Direct Dimensions it brings a reminder of two very cool projects where we utilized 3D scanning technology to help companies create new and exciting products out of recycled materials

Creating the Emeco/Coca Cola Navy Chair

Famed company Emeco teamed with Coca Cola to create a version of their classic Navy Chair out of recycled plastic Coke bottles. 

Recreating the Navy Chair in a new medium presented an engineering puzzle that was best solved using 3D technology. The original version of the chair is carefully handmade in a complicated 77 step process. Each chair, while essentially alike, is handcrafted by artisans with years of experience welding and surface finishing the aluminum. The new 111 Chair would need to retain the exact, iconic look of the original but would have to use a standard injection molding process to work with the recycled Coca Cola material.  The solution (of course) was to 3D scan and model it. Read the full story of how we 3D scanned the Navy Chair.

Helping to Create Green Consumer Goods
To satisfy the changing demands of  consumers, the team at Robinson Home Goods decided to launch a new line of kitchen products called Green Street. The products would be manufactured from material created out of recycled water bottles and packaged in recycled and compost-able materials. The designers even planned on re-using existing injection molds for the prototype phase.

They loved the overall shape of the existing spatulas and spoons but wanted something a little more indicative of the green nature of the product. The design team decided to redesign the slots in the spoon to look more like tree branches. The problem was that they only had old 2D drawings of their existing molds, making a modern CAD redesign almost impossible. They needed to find a way to accurately and quickly reverse engineer the existing injection molds into SolidWorks to facilitate the redesign process. Direct Dimensions stepped in with our 3D scanners and expert modelers to reverse engineer new CAD models of the molds. Read the full story here.

Happy Earth Day from Direct Dimensions!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Case Study: Creating Lifelike Robots


For several years Direct Dimensions has enjoyed working with David Hanson, founder of Hanson Robotics and a pioneer in the field of human-like robotics. Dr. Hanson is considered a leader in the field of social robotics since his robots are created to engage humans socially through conversation and facial movements.

The collaboration with Hanson began almost a decade ago, when Direct Dimensions joined a team working on the Phillip K. Dick robot. The Philip K. Dick android represents the first human-emulating robot complete with artificial intelligence, lifelike facial expressions, and even a human voice. The android not only possesses a human-like physiognomy, it also has the ability to recognize people.

One of the problems in creating a life-like face is fitting the outer shell (in other words, the androids face) to the various internal electronic components. Dr. Hanson wanted to use a 3D computer model to virtually fit these electronics inside. The CAD model would also be used to fabricate the production skull using rapid prototyping.

Find out how Direct Dimensions solved this 3D problem


Friday, April 4, 2014

Museums and the Web Conference

At Direct Dimensions we have been scanning precious art work, artifacts and gallery spaces for museums for years. Some of our earliest projects for museums included scanning sculptures to create miniature versions for giftshops or donors. Other major, early projects we did included scanning sculptures in the famous Cone Collection to be used in a virtual tour for the Baltimore Museum of Art and also scanning Matisse sculptures to support an exhibit, Matisse: Painter as Sculptor , also at the BMA.

It seems fitting then that the first time we attend the Museums and the Web Conference it would be held at the BMA.  The conference is an annual meeting that brings together educators, web developers, curators, scholars and more to discuss their research regarding digital practices and museums/cultural heritage. We are attending the this year to share different 3D scanning technologies that can be used by the museum industry.   3D imaging and modeling technologies provide museums with many options for documentation, conservation, and exhibit development, online user experiences, and quality replicas and merchandise. 
With more 3D scanning options than ever before, and new technology constantly being developed, it is a full time job just to know the right solution. Our digital modelers and 3D scanning experts are excited to share their knowledge and experience with the museum community.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

3D Scanning for the Movies: Noah

Darren Aronofsky's controversial epic Noah opens this week. Like his previous film, Black Swan (which we also worked on), Noah relies on some pretty incredible special effects to tell its story.

The Direct Dimensions team had the opportunity to do quite a bit of 3D scanning for this movie. Our crew scanned actors, locations, sets and even props to help bring Aronofsky's vision to the screen.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Project Snapshot: 3D Room Scan for Historic Renovation

This beautiful image is aligned scan data of the Senate Chamber in the Maryland Statehouse. The Statehouse was undergoing renovations when we were called to digitally document the original brick walls before the work continued. With only one day to document the entire chamber, 3D scanning was a natural choice: fast, complete and accurate data in just a few hours.

The state now owns data that can be used to plan future renovations or restorations, to create a digitally history exhibit or even simply to be used as a record of the room's condition at the time of scan.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3D Scanning Faces and Figures

Looking back through the month it seems that so many of the projects we've recently completed  involved scanning faces and figures. Our scans have recently been used for movie special effects, to help create better equipment for US Olympians, to support a major fashion label, to create prosthetic limbs and even to digitally document some incredible costumes at a recent convention.

At Direct Dimensions we've steadily augmented our toolbox with several excellent technologies for 3D scanning faces and figures, including our ShapeShot system and proprietary full body scanner. It is incredible to see how far we've come in just a few years.

For example, several years ago we scanned Kelly Ripa and were featured on Live with Regis and Kelly. Compare the print of her on the left ( which was featured again on Kelly and Michael just a few weeks ago) with the recent scan and print of up and coming designer Telfar Clemens of TELFAR (below).

Today, with a broad range of fully portable equipment, Direct Dimensions can laser scan live faces and full bodies and quickly deliver an exact 3D model.

These models can be used by medical professionals, designers, vfx artists, sculptors and retailers to create exact digital replicas of the scanees. Check out our website for more examples of face and figure scanning by Direct Dimensions and ShapeShot.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hackathon Slideshow

A few weeks ago we posted about the Artbytes Hackathon hosted by the Walters Art Museum. We scanned several pieces of the collection to be used as 3D content for their website. You can watch the below slideshow to see our project, "Team Scantasia" in detail.

We also helped Team George Crowdsourcington by 3D scanning a bust of George Washington that was modeled and portioned out to be the first large piece of art generated by crowdsourced 3D printing.


Friday, February 14, 2014

3D Scanning at the Movies: Winter's Tale

2013 was a busy year for us when it came to 3D scanning for visual effects. As we come into 2014 we now get to see the fruits of our labor. Winter's Tale opens this weekend just in time for Valentines Day. You can spot some of the effects in the above trailer.


Friday, February 7, 2014


To celebrate the kick-off of the 2014 Olympics we thought we'd pull a cool project from the archive:

Virtual Aerodynamic Analysis for the US Luge Team

Luge is one of the most exciting sports of the winter Olympics. A typical luge run consists of a person (or team of two) on a small sled, at speeds that can exceed 95 miles an hour, going down a course that has an average drop of 30 stories. Most sports measure results by the tenth or hundredth of a second but the difference between a gold and silver is so close that luge is the only sliding sport measured to the single thousandth of a second. Due to the extreme measurement, shaving even a couple of milliseconds off a final time can lead to a major competitive advantage.

Preparing for the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, Direct Dimensions was approached by the United States Luge team with an exciting problem that could be solved in 3D. The USA Luge team was looking at some very high tech methods for testing their equipment and improving their times; one of the testing methods included virtual wind tunnel testing.

The team was interested in testing various design modifications to their sleds. Rather than making many expensive, actual modifications and putting each one through expensive physical wind tunnel and downhill testing, the team was planning on having a 3D model. With the 3D model the athletes would then be able to view, with virtual testing, where their sleds would need improvement in order to maximize their speed and lower drag.

Given this challenge, the USA Luge team contracted Direct Dimensions. Our expertise in creating models for computation fluid dynamics analysis (CFD) combined with additional experience scanning individuals for the arts and entertainment market, made Direct Dimensions uniquely suited to work on the team’s project. Over the course of a couple of days, members of the USA Luge team and their sleds were captured in 3D by DDI engineers at our facility.

The sleds themselves were captured using a laser line scanner mounted on a Faro Arm. This equipment captured the exact shape and contours to an accuracy of about a tenth of a millimeter. The athletes were then scanned in full gear and on their sleds using a Minolta Vivid 910 scanner.

With the raw 3D data gathered during scanning, Direct Dimensions engineers then created reverse engineered 3D CAD models of the sleds and their athletes. These models allowed the team to conduct computation fluid dynamics (CFD) with greater precision and accuracy given the exact human measurements of team members in relation to their sleds.

After the 2006 games a few members of the team returned to Direct Dimensions with their doubles sled for further scanning and modeling. The modifications created from these 3D models will hopefully enable the USA Luge team to continue increasing their speeds.


Monday, February 3, 2014

ArtBytes 2014

Last week we had the opportunity to compete in the second ArtBytes Hackathon, hosted by the Walters Art Museum.

For those unfamiliar, a hackathon is usually a multi-day event that brings together skilled technical workers (such as software programmers, graphic and interface designers, and engineers) to create a project based on a theme. In the case of ArtBytes II the task was to create something inspired by or directly related to the museum's collection. At the start of the hackathon several projects will generally be proposed and then the workers will split into teams to complete their project by the event's end.

Direct Dimensions modeler Michelle Craft evaluates the Terra Cotta Adam and Eve for scanning
Several Direct Dimensions employees decided to load up our 3D scanners and see how we could be involved. We ultimately ended up working on two projects, George Crowdsourcington and our own Team Scantasia.

For our own project, Team Scantasia, we decided to 3D scan and model as many pieces from the museum's collection as we could. We scanned ancient Egyptian statuary, a terra cotta Adam and Eve and even a suit of armor. These 3D models will ultimately be used to create 3D content for the Walters' website and can already be viewed on our sketchfab site.

For George Crowdsourcington we 3D scanned a sculpture of George Washington that is being temporarily housed by the Walters. The sculpture was then modeled and sectioned into a 110 pieces. These 110 sections are available to be downloaded on a corresponding website. The end goal is to have members of the maker community each download and print a piece on their personal 3D printers and then send them to a central location where a full sized, crowd-sourced replica will be assembled.