Thursday, January 28, 2010

CMSC Announces Call for Papers

CMSC announces a Call for Papers for their 2010 Conference.

Join the ranks of other metrology leaders as a CMSC presenter. Share your expertise with new and experienced users in Reno, Nevada, July 12-16. CMSC is looking for presentations and technical papers that explore technology, theory, and practice that advances coordinate metrology.

As always, Direct Dimensions will be involved in this conference and calling on our contacts to sign up to make presentations. Our company president, Michael Raphael, was elected to CMSC's Executive Committee at last years meeting in Louisville.

Now is the time to submit your abstracts, please see the conference website for more information.

For more details, visit the CMSC website.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Geomagic CEO sitting with First Lady at State of the Union

Ping Fu, CEO of Geomagic and one of the leaders of the 3D scanning community, has been invited to sit with the First Lady during tonight's State of the Union address.

Earlier this month Ms. Fu was part of a group of CEOs that met with the President and Whitehouse staff as part of the White House Forum on Modernizing Government.

According to an interview with the News & Observer:
"Fu assumes that administration officials wanted someone who represents "game-changing" small or medium companies that created jobs in 2009.

"Somebody was impressed with my company and the things I said" during a CEO technology forum at the White House on Jan. 14, Fu said. "The economy is the main issue, and creating jobs."

Congratulations Ping!


DI4D Open House February 3rd in Los Angeles

Do you work in the Film or Game industries? Are you in the L.A. area? If so, we encourage you to attend the DI4D Open House. Mimic Studios and Direct Dimensions will be hosting this event to showcase the amazing 4D Video Facial Capture System from Dimensional Imaging!

This revolutionary 4D camera system, based on passive stereophotogrammetry technology from DI3D™, allows you to capture fully-textured 3D facial motion at 60 frames per second! This data can then be output in formats and resolutions for film and game use.

Please call us at 410-998-0880 or email for additional information.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

3D Scanning Technologies Industry Roundup: “Conversations with leaders in the scanning and digitizing business”

In our end of the year newsletter we decided to revisit an interview Michael did with 3D Scanning Technologies about the state of the 3D scanning industry. We received some great feedback and thought it might be worthwhile to share it here as well.

1. As a longtime observer in a maturing technology market, what do you see?

MR: The market for 3D scanning is following the usual cycle for other advanced technologies. While some aspects of our field are maturing, others are just gaining traction, still others just launching, and many are just trying to get noticed.

For example the portable CMM market is relatively mature given its 15-plus year run so far. Technical advances by the OEM’s for these products also are slowing, as probably are sales. Clearly there will be continued sales but most of the low hanging fruit, as they say, has been picked.

Meanwhile other 3D imaging categories, such as long range scanners and application-specific solutions, such as dental scanners, are very hot topics right now and sales are growing. I am fascinated by the recent growth in these areas and consequently we are watching closely for similar category killer apps (like dental) that have similar mass market potential. Think of it, there are 6 billion people on this planet and they all eventually need dental work where 3D imaging can help. We are working on similar body-related concepts where personalized shape capture enables individualized medical treatments as well as security and entertainment applications. See our new ShapeShot™ website for more on this.

Perhaps the most interesting aspects for our industry and for me are the technologies that are still flying under the radar. Being a ‘one-stop-3D-shop’ for nearly 15 years, we are often asked to test new 3D imaging technologies – both hardware and software – before they hit the market. Given our unique dual business model of providing both 3D services as well as product representation, we have a unique ability to match new solutions to old problems – or – we know where the holes are for potential market opportunities. This is one of our more valuable business assets and keeps us strongly leading edge.

2. What’s happening in the manufacturing and/or service area of the (medical, dental, auto, aero) scanning industry?

MR: In general for these industrial sectors we are noticing an increase in adoption and acceptance of 3D scanning as a increasingly common tool for solving technical problems. Clearly everyone in the industry is helping to achieve this adoption including the OEMs, other service providers, technical interchange groups, and users. The more awareness and promotion of 3D scanning technology, the more people will try it, come to accept it, and then eventually demand more of it. We in the industry already know that it works well and that it can help solve a lot of manufacturing problems; we just need more customers to understand this and fortunately this is definitely happening faster now.

3. How do the low/high cost scanning systems fit into the industry?

MR: Regardless of cost, most 3D scanners have a place in the proverbial toolbox. Price is usually NOT the most important factor for selecting a scanning system. That’s why at Direct Dimensions we use and sell so many different types of scanners. There is no ‘magic’ scanner (yet…!) that can replace all the various solutions offered by all the different OEMs. Clearly each technology has a place in the market, or they would not continue to exist for very long.

I have accepted this challenge for over 20 years – that is: constantly working to determine the best technology for every particular application. Today for example, with other like-minded experts within SME’s 3D Imaging Tech Group, we are working to categorize and classify the various 3D scanning technologies relative to applications. Our goal is to help demonstrate when and how all the technologies fit together, how they overlap, when & why to consider what technology, etc. So far we have compiled an extensive list of project characteristics, such as object size, color, geometric complexity, etc. In parallel we are working to identify a complete listing of all 3D scanning technologies with broad categorizations. This has indeed been a difficult task due to the complexity of the applications and the number of 3D solutions in the marketplace.

If anyone is interested in helping our SME 3D Imaging committee, of which I am the current chairperson, feel free to contact me directly for more information.

4. Do you feel scanning has achieved respectability as a needed process in the manufacturing world?

MR: 3D scanning technologies in the manufacturing world can be classified into three main use cases: 1) quality control, 2) reverse engineering, and 3) rapid manufacturing. The first two areas have been in use at some level for nearly two decades and are continuing to grow steadily. The third area – Rapid Manufacturing or RM, is relatively new and only just starting to reveal its potential.

There is no question that the scanning market for QC (dimensional inspection) is huge. Companies always want faster solutions for validating manufactured product and clearly non-contact scanning can provide this. Today’s primary method – the traditional CMM – has been around for over three decades and is therefore a mature and well accepted process. For non-contact scanning to disrupt this, the industry still needs maturity in the form of common performance standards, tighter delivery platforms, and integration to internal manufacturing quality procedures.

Reverse engineering, while sometimes controversial, is a legitimate process that allows a company to benchmark its competitor’s designs, convert legacy parts to digital formats, and capture hand-sculpted shapes for use within a CAD model. While the term for this process may not be the best, the technology has been proven to help in many different applications even beyond product design including 3D documentation for historic preservation, as-built architecture, and custom medical prosthetics, just to name a few.

Speaking of custom medical applications, I expect this area to grow substantially by means of rapid manufacturing, or RM. 3D imaging, combined with nearly 25 years of rapid prototype technology development, will come together to enable the long envisioned concept of mass customization. Products will be tailored specifically to individuals to provide custom fit medical orthotics, braces, protective gear, armor, even eyeglasses. RM will impact consumer products, security measures, medical appliances, and even our forms of entertainment.

5. What do you see on the horizon for the scanning and imaging industry?

MR: It’s my view that our industry is in a good position as it relates to the economy. Clearly the overall global economic situation is not great yet but 3D imaging technology is still relatively niche and early in its growth cycle compared to the much larger CAD industry, for example. Our major growth cycle is still to come.

Just look at the number of firms making and selling 3D solutions – there are well over a hundred worldwide. It’s like the car industry in the early 1900’s – lots of smaller companies that later consolidated into a few large giants. At some level this has started in our industry with some of the larger players, such as Hexagon, Leica, and Faro, making strategic acquisitions. We’ll have to see how that plays out given the economy but I think the small and mid size firms can have better immunity to negative global economic trends if carefully managed.

6. Which areas offer the most growth potential?

mR: The magic question - where does one invest for the future? You could follow current trends, which would indicate some of the growth topics discussed above, such as 3D microCT and conebeam CT technologies for medical applications, long range lasers for architectural and forensics, and automated scanning for manufacturing inspection.

At Direct Dimensions we hedge this uncertainty by working in virtually all possible directions for 3D scanning. This provides experience and perspective, and allows us to spot trends over time as the technology catches up to the problems.

Industry watchers should also take interest in the following industry indicators: contined growth in the number of conferences and events featuring 3D scanning including SME’s 3D Imaging, CMSC, SPAR, IAFMS, ASTM’s E57, and TCT; regular users meetings by many of the major technology suppliers such as PolyWorks, Geomagic, and Rapidform.

7. Where do you recommend learning more about 3D imaging?

MR: We promote and participate strongly in the following 3D imaging trade conferences. I encourage anyone interested in this field to attend these events:

* SME’s 3D Imaging conference at
* CMSC at
* SPAR conference at

I also highly recommend this online forum which primarily deals with long range scanning: This may be the most active technology-neutral networking site within our 3D field.

An industry friend of ours, Gene Roe, regularly publishes a great blog at

A growing source for collaborative discussion can be found in several relevant “LinkedIn” groups including:

* Portable CMM Users
* Laser Scanning
* White Light Scanning Pros
* International Metrology
* And new groups form regularly

We also receive a significant amount of 3D industry news delivered daily by newsletters from many vendors, trade magazines, online news sources, Google Alert news-bot emails, and RSS feeds. So feel free to inquire directly with any questions – we’ve probably read something about it.

We also regularly update our already extensive website with new materials at, we post almost weekly to our blog at, we have published our newsletter every month now for over a year to nearly 50,000 subscribers; our YouTube channel features videos and animations from some of our more interesting projects, and now you can even follow us up to the minute on Twitter!

Thanks for a great 2009, our 15th year in business, and here's to a great 2010.

Michael Raphael
Founder, President, and Chief Engineer


Friday, January 8, 2010

Case Study: Using 3D Imaging to Create High-Res Prosthetic Hand

Direct Dimensions has long been interested in applying our 3D laser scanning technology to aid in the field of “anaplastology,” the medical field of making cosmetic prosthesis which improve the quality of life for those who need them. We have worked extensively with some of the profession's most talented practitioners, including a long-standing partnership with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Department of “Art as Applied to Medicine.”

Some previous projects have included working with the team at Hopkins to help rebuild the nose of U.S. Army Senior Airman Michael Fletcher and working on many prosthetic ear projects. We consider the creation of prosthetics some of the most rewarding work we are privileged to do so we were very honored when Dr. Robert A. Erb, Ph.D, noted anaplastologist and former president of the American Anaplastology Association (AAA) contacted us to assist on a particularly challenging project.

Dr. Erb had a patient who had lost a hand in a tragic accident. The goal was to create a new life-like hand including the fine details of skin texture. The doctor was also interested in how 3D laser scanning might help with his methods. Through a recommendation from a colleague he found that Direct Dimensions and our Digital Modeling team was excited to take on the project.

DDI’s project manager Harry Abramson has worked on many similar replication projects and he noted the significance of this opportunity. “We were excited because it set a new benchmark for us to represent what could be done in anaplastology and realistic re-creation utilizing 3D scanning technologies. Our usual work generally does not need to be as detailed, but this time it was about creating the most realistic prosthetic possible.”

Dr. Erb came to Direct Dimensions’ lab with a plaster casting he had taken of his patient’s intact hand. We scanned this casting two different ways to ensure the highest quality of data possible: first with a laser line scanner mounted on a Faro Arm and second with a laser line scanner mounted on a motorized precision coordinate measuring machine, or CMM. This particular CMM system was integrated by our own DDI engineers for in-house projects requiring very high resolutions and can even capture fingerprints in 3D.

The resulting data from the scans was incredibly detailed, containing millions of 3D polygons. During the modeling process, utilizing PolyWorks software, the model was also flipped to create a mirror of the plaster casting and a faithful re-creation of the clients lost hand.

The high resolution 3D digital model was then provided to a rapid prototyping service bureau to create a physical hand using an Objet Eden printer - one of the highest resolution 3D printers currently available. The material selected was “Vero Blue,” a rapid prototype material noted for both its strength and its exceptional ability to retain fine detail.

The prototype prosthetic hand which we delivered to Dr. Erb was so lifelike that you could even see pores and hair follicles. Using the prototype hand, Dr. Erb created a finalized prosthetic in silicone with no loss of detail - truly an exceptional achievement, and one aided by the cutting-edge 3D technologies at Direct Dimensions.