Monday, September 26, 2011

Direct Dimensions is on IMDb

You may have seen our post the other day about scanning the Lincoln Memorial and how that digital model was used in the Night at the Museum sequel but did you know that we have since worked on several films?

Make sure to take a look at our IMDb page to see the other major films that we've been working on at Direct Dimensions!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Case Study: Bringing Lincoln to Life

Bringing Lincoln to Life in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian

The hit family film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian has been described as ingenious for bringing to life many famous art and sculpture pieces and animating ‘monumental’ figures in our nation’s capital.

At Direct Dimensions, we had a small part to play in supplying pieces of data and graphics necessary to bring the Lincoln Memorial to life.

In one of the movie’s most inventive scenes, the statue of Abe Lincoln seated within the Lincoln Memorial stands up and walks out of the Memorial and onto the National Mall. After being contacted by Rhythm and Hues Studios, our team re-purposed 3D scans of the Lincoln Memorial already stored in our files to provide this essential digital information to the Oscar Award-winning visual effects studio in the form of a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) model.

Rhythm and Hues Studios then enhanced the digital information with animation for the Abe that is seen and voiced by Hank Azaria within the film.

Direct Dimensions originally scanned the Lincoln Memorial at the request of the U. S. Government in 2001 – just after September 11th – to understand how significant cultural monuments could be reproduced, if necessary. Since then we have captured many other National Monuments including the Liberty Bell and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but the Lincoln Memorial is the first that ended up in a movie.


Monday, September 19, 2011


Last month Direct Dimensions participated in The Studio at SIGGRAPH 2011. President Michael Raphael was a panelist for a round table discussion entitled: Scan, Model, Print.

The above image was compiled from The Studio where in one area participants were scanned and modeled by Direct Dimensions and then could print themselves with some help from the folks at MakerBot.

We look forward to next year!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Direct Dimensions Contributes to 9/11 Memorial of Maryland

The 68 Marylanders who lost their lives on 9/11 will be honored today when the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland is unveiled in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. The Memorial, designed by Ziger/Snead, incorporates three steel beams from the World Trade Center, three limestone blocks from the west wall of the Pentagon and three black granite pieces representing the Flight 93 site in Shanksville, PA.

The 9/11 Memorial of Maryland is unique among other state memorials in its design; rather than incorporating the artifacts into a new structure or piece of art the designers felt that leaving the beams in their original state offered a powerful and reverent memorial of the event.

One of the first steps in creating the design was documenting the existing condition of the beams. Due to the extensive damage it would be nearly impossible to document them using traditional methods. It was also important that whatever process was used to record the measurements not come into contact with these historically important pieces.

These two factors lead the team at Ziger/Snead to Direct Dimensions to learn about how cutting edge 3D laser scanning and 3D imaging could be used to capture the beams for the purposes of planning and design. Of course, Direct Dimensions' President Michael Raphael and the DDI team of engineers were excited to tackle such a unique 3D scan while also helping a worthy cause.

The Direct Dimensions team ultimately utilized two different scanners to capture the massive and complex steel beams. The Surphaser HSX Spherical Laser scanner and the new handheld Mantis Vision F5 scanner were used to digitally capture the complex artifacts in just a few hours. Both of these scanners were able to capture the exact measurements of the beams without ever touching them.

The data acquired from the scan, in the form of large point clouds, was digitally modeled and delivered to the designers. According to Ziger/Snead the 3D model can be used in a variety of ways including using it for 3D printing a scale model of the beams, using the 3D models for placement on the project site and construction questions, and using it for the design of structural supports and fasteners.

The monument will be officially unveiled today in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

You can visit the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland project page to learn more about the creation of the memorial.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Case Study: Parametric Snowmobile Engine

Reverse Engineering an engine to help University of Maryland Terps Racing beat the competition

Every year a select group of students in the Mechanical Engineering program in the A. James Clark School of Engineering at University of Maryland in College Park, MD compete in the Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) competition. The FSAE competition requires the team of students to design, build, and race their own open cockpit race car.

The University of Maryland team, called Terps Racing, consistently finishes in the top 10 against 80 to 120 other school programs annually. Aiming for a 1st place finish in the upcoming races, the team is experimenting with a new engine design.

The small autocross cars, usually weighing between 300 and 500 pounds, typically run on modified motorcycle engines. But Terps Racing is experimenting with using a snowmobile engine for the upcoming 2011 races.

During the design phase for a new gearbox for this style engine, the students realized they needed a 3D CAD model of their snowmobile engine so that they could accurately design within the tight tolerances necessary to the mounting points.

Terps Racing approached Direct Dimensions for help with creating a dimensionally accurate 3D model of the engine to aid in their design and we were happy to help!

Here is a review of the major steps in this process:

Step 1) Using a combination of FARO's portable CMM arm and laser scanner, Direct Dimensions' engineer Michael Lent digitized the important geometric interface features on the engine. He then captured the complex casting shape with an attached laser line probe. The FARO system was a great fit for this project because it provides both a contact probe for high accuracy geometric features and a non-contact laser scanner for the complex contoured surfaces.

Step 2) By utilizing a variety of software, including PolyWorks, Geomagic, Rapidform and SolidWorks, the Direct Dimensions engineers quickly merged and modeled the 3D digitized data with the laser scanned 'point clouds' into a hybrid of a parametric solid-based feature model with the watertight complex NURBS surfaces. This file is readily usable within CAD software, such as SolidWorks for the re-design effort.

Step 3) This final hybrid model, which offered both the exact representation of the mounting interfaces as well as the accurate contoured cast surfaces was used by Terps Racing to design their 2011 car.