Thursday, October 28, 2010

3D Scanning Newsletter - October

This month's 3D Scanning newsletter contains the following stories:

Utilizing 3D Scanning for Historic Preservation: The Druid Hill Arch restoration project is a perfect example of how Direct Dimensions was able to completely document a historical structure in a single day.

Parametric Snowmobile Engine: University of Maryland Terps Racing team needed a snowmobile engine scanned and modeled to help them compete in a 2011 competition

Maryland State House: Unique medium-range 3D laser scanner gathers high accuracy dimensions for historic documentation

If you haven't signed up for our newsletter yet, you can do so here.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . 3D Visualizations

Chapter 8: Using 3D Data for Visualization

While we touched on visualization, one of several downstream applications in Chapter Six, the subject is so comprehensive that it deserves a discussion of its own.

As our lives become increasingly digital and interactive (via the web, video games, and even television and our cell phones), we have come to expect ever more realistic interpretations of real world objects within this virtual realm. One of the best ways to perfect the digital form is to actually copy the shape of objects into 3D via laser scanning and digital imaging.

Visualization applications generally fall into the following categories:

* Animations - 3D digital movies made from computer models
* Renderings - 2D images made from computer models
* Direct 3Dviews - real-time interactive web-based 3D visualizations
* ShapeShot™ - real-time interactive web-based 3D facial images


When most people think of computer animation they think of the neat special effects in blockbuster movies and the animated explanations of complex events on the nightly news, such as train accidents. Yes - 3D models are frequently used for those types of animations. But often these animations are pure visualizations where the dimensional accuracy of the objects is less important – as long as it looks good.

Our brand of 3D scanning and modeling is more valuable when the quality of the models is critical, such as for museum objects, or military simulations, or for animating highly recognizable objects for tv commercials such as cars. These situations require accuracy and authenticity, which scanning provides, so the objects in the animations look as real as possible. Often real colors and textures are captured and applied to provide that much more realism.

We have created numerous 3D animations from our 3D scanned models for a wide variety of applications including illustrating complex medical procedures, forensic analysis, describing historic preservation sites, and even for Hollywood movies and commercials.


Rendering is the process of creating a still image from a 3D model. High quality 2D renderings are often created from an existing 3D model that was originally captured for other purposes. These renderings can be used for graphical presentations, marketing, and even websites. For instance, if a product designer has created a hand-carved physical model for reverse engineering purposes, he can also use that same digital file to create awesome 2D images of his product for marketing graphics. The great thing about a rendering created from a 3D model is that it is highly accurate and quick to render out multiple lighting and background states to create multiple renderings without staging new photography shoots.

Direct 3Dviews

A Direct 3Dview is a fully-interactive real-time 3D presentation of a digital model in a virtual environment. This 3D model visualization can be displayed via a website, a PowerPoint, or even in a stand-alone format. The Direct 3Dview of your object can be used to create an on-line 3D catalog to allow web visitors to fully experience the product - virtually. Another great application is for 3D proofs of concept for a new design or invention in a collaborative viewing environment.

Features of the Direct 3Dview include:

* Smallest viewer on the web - the one-time plug-in is only 130KB
* Smaller digital file sizes = faster download times
* Easily integrates into web sites
* Viewer supported in e-mail as well as PowerPoint
* View file in actual 3D, not a series of images


ShapeShots™ are high resolution 3D snapshots of faces that are incredibly life-like. ShapeShot™ enables online personal interaction with amazingly real 3D avatars of you, friends, and family for social networking, online gaming, virtual collaborative environments, and fabrication of personalized consumer products.

New advances in 3D imaging technology have made it to possible to capture faces in a split second and receive an interactive 3D model within minutes with almost no effort.

Direct Dimensions is currently developing the ShapeShot™ concept. See for more information.

From the Virtual to the Physical

The above examples are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to visualization applications. But what happens if you want to take your 3D model and make a physical copy of it? For instance, can you take your Guitar Hero avatar and get a physical 3D copy made? You can, and that process is called Rapid Prototyping or RP. Rapid Prototyping is just one of many technologies that fall into the “3D Printing” category and we’ll be talking about that next.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Case Study: Documenting Ancient Egyptian Artifacts

Sculptures in ancient Egypt were thought to grant eternal life to the kings, queens, and gods that they portrayed. The mystique of these eternal sculptures is just one of the reasons that we continue to be fascinated by the ancient Egyptian culture and the remarkable sculptures they left behind, many of which remain in museum collections around the world. Many museums consider their Egyptian collection among their most popular exhibits. The Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of Pharaohs, for example, is regarded as the most popular traveling exhibit in history.

Considered one of the finest Ancient Egyptian collections in the world, The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has over 42,000 items in their collection. Direct Dimensions was approached recently by the University of Pennsylvania museum, known as The University Museum, with an exciting 3D project: the museum officials wanted to offer replicas of some of the most popular pieces for sale in the museum gift shop.

Given the well preserved condition of these original ancient artifacts, and the museums dedication to quality and authenticity, it was important that the replicas be made very precisely to the originals. The officials quickly realized that advanced non-contact 3D imaging technology would be needed to perform this task.

For example, with the age of the sculptures dating back to approximately 1300 B.C., it would not be possible to cast a mold off the pieces as this could damage the originals. Plus it was determined that some of the pieces would need to be reproduced smaller and larger than the originals, so direct casting would not work.

After preparing for the on-site effort at the museum, the DDI technicians scanned four different sculptures: the Amun, the Headless Princess, the Scribe, and a Kneeling King Tut. An articulating arm-based laser line scanner provided high accuracy and real-time feedback to assure complete capture before heading back to Baltimore to process the raw scan data.

For the post-processing, we used Innovmetric’s PolyWorks Modeler software to create highly accurate watertight 3D digital models of each of the ancient pieces. During both the scanning and modeling processes, specific attention was paid to fine cracks and other imperfections in the original pieces – qualities that would make the reproductions that much more accurate and realistic. Some of the models were also scaled to several different heights so that the gift shop could offer the reproductions at different price points.

The final digital models were formatted into STL files and fabricated using rapid prototyping to create high quality patterns. Then the museum arranged for a production fabricator to cast the reproductions in a high quality resin material.

The museum-quality reproduction sculptures are some of the most popular items in their gift shop and visitors are thrilled to bring a little piece of Ancient Egypt home with them.

If you are interested in purchasing a replication, you can call 215-898-4046.

If you would like to make museum-quality reproductions to raise funds for your museum, please contact Direct Dimensions.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

ShapeShot at GBTC TechNite tonight!

Recently at Direct Dimensions, we've been gearing up to show off our new ShapeShotTM concept for GBTC Technite 2010 and the Hottest Tech in Town competition.

Technite is a wonderful annual event held by the Greater Baltimore Technology Council that highlights all of the amazing work tech companies are doing in Baltimore.

This year they are also holding the "Hottest Tech in Town" competition where fifteen technology start-up finalists were chosen from an applicant pool of over forty-five applicants. The ultimate winner will be chosen by a combination of internet voting and a judges panel.

Direct Dimensions, showcasing our ShapeShotTM Technology, is excited to be one of the finalists. The event is tonight and voting continues until 6:30pm. Vote for Direct Dimensions HERE.

If you are attending TechNite this evening, make sure and stop by and get your ShapeShot. We are also launching a new app for Android so you can have your ShapeShot in your hand within 2 minutes!

Check out this video, made by Direct Dimensions Engineer Greg Chaprnka, showing the incredibly realistic and incredibly fast ShapeShot process.