Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008 End of the Year Wrap-Up

by Michael Raphael

Innovation has no map, no compass, no clock, and no finish line. In the late 1980s, 3D measurement technology was in its infancy. It was cumbersome, expensive, unreliable, and there were few options from which to choose. As an engineer at a large aerospace manufacturer, I saw an incredible need for new 3D tools for my work in design, manufacturing, and inspection.

By 1995, having helped develop a revolutionary new portable 3D measurement tool called the Faro Arm, I was inspired to start a company dedicated to the development, application, and proliferation of advanced 3D measurement technologies. More than a company, we created an environment which inspired innovation; a place where employees, customers, and vendors accepted hard challenges “because they could.”

Year after year we have been asked by our customers to push the limits of 3D technologies to solve increasingly complex problems for an increasingly broad spectrum of industries and applications.

Our business has essentially evolved into a working R&D lab, equipped with advanced equipment and funded by the services and products we provide to our customers. Everyday I am amazed by the diversity and depth of projects, applications, and customers.

As we continue to take on new challenges, new employees, and new equipment, we will continue to discover better ways to solve 3D problems. What was nearly impossible 10 years ago, and took months just a few years ago, we can now accomplish in a few hours. Our innovation and perseverance allows us now to introduce our new fast, affordable, and accurate 3D scanning and modeling service perfect for virtually all industries.

One such example is the new Surphaser spherical laser scanner from Basis Software. This scanner is as exciting to me as the Faro Arm was twenty years ago when it was conceived for industrial applications. As the only product with a mid-range focus, the Surphaser can capture objects from the size of cars to airplanes with the ease of use of the long range scanners and the accuracy and resolution of the close range systems. This scanner has become the solution to challenging problems we’ve faced for years.

Welcome to our new monthly newsletter where we will be highlighting our interesting 3D scanning and modeling projects and products. We hope that you will take a moment to review this information and provide feedback to us.

I encourage you to visit our website frequently as we update it daily. Nearly 14 years of innovation has allowed Direct Dimensions to provide you with the best 3D solutions.

Thanks for another great year!

Michael Raphael, President & Chief Engineer, Direct Dimensions, Inc.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Gort The Robot

It's not every day that DDI gets to digitize a celebrity. We've scanned Ray Lewis, Abraham Lincoln (well, sort of), and... Gort the Alien? If one of Earth's most famous extraterrestrial visitors doesn't merit a mention, I can't imagine what would.

Gort was first spotted in the 1951 science fiction classic, 'The Day the Earth Stood Still,' and remains to this day an iconic image of sci-fi lore. DDI scanned a small toy replica of Gort for replication using a Perceptron 3D laser mounted on a FARO Arm. The data was used to make a 'water-tight' digital model that can be used for prototyping and replication.

Um, so if an army of identical Gort aliens invade to mark the opening of today's remake, please don't tell anyone it's all our fault.

For more information on this project, check out Gort in the DDI project portfolio.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Preserve, Conserve, Restore

Lately, one of the buzzwords here at Direct Dimensions has been “preservation.” We've had our hands full with challenging and unique projects to conserve and replicate historical treasures. Last week, we worked on a project for the US National Park Service, and we also had a team of engineers on location at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

We believe that our innovative 3D technologies are perfectly suited to preservation applications not only because they are fast and highly accurate, but because they are also non-contact methods of acquiring data for posterity. Previous methods of preservation, such as making castings for replication, have required the application of wax or plaster and pressure that might cause damage to the often-antique item being restored. These methods are often expensive and require many hours of hand-finishing to create a reasonable facsimile. Using 3D laser scanning, DDI can collect that data quickly, and without any physical damage to the subject. Digital modeling can restore details which time and nature have eroded. More than just a close copy, DDI can also provide the data to make an exact replica in a wide selection of materials.

As we are committed to historical preservation, DDI has worked on many digital conservation projects over the years. We have scanned the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, architectural elements of the Maryland State House, and even the Liberty Bell itself. For more information on our efforts towards historical preservation, check out our project portfolio on art and architecture!


DDI in National Park Service's Journal of Heritage Stewardship

Direct Dimensions recently had the honor of being featured in the Summer 2008 issue of CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship, published by the US National Park Service. The article was “The Restoration of Monumental Church in Richmond, VA,” which detailed the immense historical preservation project undertaken by the NPS and John Milner Associates, Inc. to return the landmark monument to its former glory.

Monumental Church, designed and built by American architect Robert Mills between 1812 and 1814, is one of our oldest and most distinctive churches, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as being a United States National Historic Landmark. It is, in part, a memorial to an earlier tragedy, marking a tragic theater fire that claimed 72 lives on December 26, 1811. As Mills was particularly concerned with fireproofing the new building, much of the site was designed in marble. However, the increase of atmospheric pollutants has corroded the marble, and by the turn of the 21st century, Monumental Church required restoration.

As part of this preservation process, Direct Dimensions was brought in to scan the church's signature marble funerary monument for replication. Using data acquired during the scan, a precise digital replica was created of the complete monument that could be exactly reproduced in marble using cutting edge computerized milling technology. This process was documented in the film Saving Grace- Resurrecting American History, which was written and directed by Emmy winning writer/director Eric Futterman.

For more on DDI's involvement in the Monumental Church restoration, visit our Featured Projects Page or the Historic Richmond Foundation's page on the project.


Friday, November 14, 2008

DDI Creates Models for AFL Commercial

On Tuesday, November 11, commercial editing studio Eye Candy visited Direct Dimensions. They had been tapped by the Arena Football League (AFL) to create a 30-second commercial advertising the sports franchise. Eye Candy plans to include an 8-second digital animation during the spot, which will feature fifteen football players in a packed arena. To do that, they require the most precise digital models featuring both exact detail and true-to-life textures.

In order to capture the data that would be needed to make these models, DDI scanned Eye Candy’s actor, in full AFL uniform, with our most accurate digitizers over the course of four hours and 50 total scans.

After a rapid turn-around of one week, DDI will deliver to Eye Candy high-resolution textured polygonal models that they can then use to create their animations. Be sure to check back soon to see the finished commercial!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mattie Stepanek Remembered

DDI Art Services Director, Harry Abramson, with the finished bronze sculpture by Jimilu Mason

On Saturday, October 18, 2008, the memory and message of poet and peacemaker Matthew “Mattie” Stepanek was honored in Rockville, MD, at a dedication ceremony for the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park. The park includes a 26-acre recreational facility and is located in the King Farm community of Rockville, MD. Mattie had been diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy at a young age, but published five best-selling books of poetry espousing peace before his death in 2004, shortly before his fourteenth birthday. The dedication ceremony was attended by hundreds of people, including Oprah Winfrey, and during the ceremony, a life-sized sculpture of Mattie, whose personal motto had been, "think gently, speak gently, live gently,” was unveiled.

When Virginian artist and sculptor Jimilu Mason became involved with the Mattie Stepanek memorial project, she came to Direct Dimensions for help. She wanted her sculpture of Mattie to be very lifelike, and that included getting his wheelchair just right. Harry Abramson, the director of DDI’s Art Services Team, spoke about our involvement in the project. “Of all sculptural projects, this was a unique use of our technology because it was one where we helped to provide the artist with scaled reference material. Clearly, Jimilu had a vision of what she was trying to do, with extreme attention to detail, and we were able to bridge the gap between her artistic methods and our technology.”

DDI scanned the wheelchair, and the data from that scan was processed to produce a digital file suitable for milling. This allowed Jimilu to incorporate a dimensionally accurate of Mattie’s wheelchair into her finished sculpture, which was cast in bronze. As the project was completed, Harry went on to say, “Mattie moved thousands of people with his approach to life and words… it is amazing that those people he touched were collectively inspired to make a monument so his spirit could continue to affect others.”

For more information about the dedication ceremony, please visit


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Direct Dimensions on 98 Rock

This morning, Direct Dimensions President Michael Raphael and Business Development Manager Harry Abramson appeared on Baltimore's 98 Rock morning show, "Mickey, Amelia, and Spiegel." They talked about the exciting possibilities on digitizing hometown hero Michael Phelps for an extremely accurate bronze statue that would preserve his exact form at the time of his astounding 2008 Summer Olympics performance. The statue, they said, could raise money for related causes, such as the Special Olympics.

Listen to the Show!

Also discussed: the marble "Bust of a Bust," which raised $7,000 for the Maryland Zoo, as well as our work with wounded soldier facial reconstructions.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

DDI to Talk Human Form Scanning and Maryland’s Favorite Olympian on 98 Rock

Tomorrow, October 16th, Direct Dimensions president Michael Raphael will appear on Baltimore radio station 98 Rock’s “Mickey, Amelia, and Spiegel” morning show to discuss one of DDI’s specialties: scanning the human form. DDI had previously scanned radio DJ Amelia for a “Bust of a Bust”-- a marble sculpture was created from a scan of her torso, and proceeds from the resulting auction benefited the Maryland Zoo.

Some of our favorite past projects at DDI have involved scanning people and the human form. We’ve digitized a maquette of former Baltimore Orioles manager Cal Ripken Sr., and Baltimore Ravens football star Ray Lewis. When we were highlighted at Wired Magazine’s NextFest, we had the opportunity to scan actress Kelly Ripa, and were subsequently featured on “Live with Regis and Kelly.” The data from these, and similar scans, can be digitally modeled and then produced in several formats-- busts, sculptures, laser-embossed crystals, coins, video game skins and animations. The options are endless, and all produced in near-exact detail, and in materials that range from wood to bronze to glass and beyond.

So what’s next for DDI? We’d love the opportunity to use our technology to document an exceptional athlete—perhaps 14-time Olympic medalist and national hero, Michael Phelps. With so much buzz about Phelps’ uniquely perfect swimmers’ build, DDI has unparalleled technology to exactly capture his form for a true-to-life sculpture which could be produced for the planned Olympian’s Park in Towson, MD. How cool would that be?

For more information about tomorrow’s broadcast, tune in to Mickey, Amelia, and Spiegel on 98 Rock (97.9 Baltimore), or visit

You can check out more of DDI’s human scanning projects here: Direct Dimensions Featured Projects.


Friday, May 9, 2008

DDI Presents "Reverse Engineering and Aging Aircraft" at RAPID 2008

3D SCANNING: Reverse Engineering, Analysis & Inspection
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort and Conv Ctr
Lake Buena Vista FL USA
May 20 - May 22, 2008

Wednesday, May 21
9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Reverse Engineering and Aging Aircraft
Staying abreast of current projects and the process that define these projects helps both current and new users see the evolution of the technologies.

With incredible investments in both capital and infrastructure, the aerospace industry has a vested interest in keeping its assets flying without an undue burden on current and future development efforts. To economically reach this goal Reverse Engineering has proven it can meet the high standards of the aerospace industry. In particular, older parts and planes benefit from this approach as there is no current 3D or computer data to guide re-engineering efforts.

This process will be described via several cast studies that highlight when and how to use particular hardware, the challenges of assembling and creating a relevant model, and downstream options.

presented by:
Dominic Albanese, Engineer, Direct Dimensions, Inc.

For more information on RAPID 2008, visit