Digitizing natural history specimens for online access with Artec Space Spider

Product: Artec Space Spider
Industry: Design and Art

Nature has always been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for people. Climbing pads mimicking the biomechanics of gecko feet, antibacterial micropattern that mimics the form and function of sharkskin, or the aerodynamics of the famous Japanese bullet train inspired by the shape of a bird’s beak – these are just a few examples of how models, systems, and elements of nature are used to solve complex human problems and design challenges.

As Janine Benyus, biologist, author, and co-founder of Biomimicry Institute famously said in her TED talk: “We are surrounded by genius. We were never the first ones to build [anything].”

Global urbanization, mass migration to cities, and new travel regulations leave us humans with a limited selection of opportunities to get in touch with all the facets, recipes, and blueprints that this greatest invention machine has to offer. However, there are places in the world where you can access thousands of authentic natural history specimens without having to go into the wilderness, fly to a remote island, or wade through impenetrable jungles, unbearable heat, or cold. One such place: the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab.Nature Lab

Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab (photo courtesy of the Nature Lab)


Founded in 1937 by a Rhode Island School of Design graduate, long-time faculty member, scholar, teacher, and accomplished American painter, Edna Lawrence set out to, in her own words, “open students’ eyes to the marvels of beauty in nature…of forms, space, color, texture, design, and structure.”

The Nature Lab is not your typical laboratory. What started as a small collection of natural specimens that Edna picked up during her summer road trips for her Nature Drawing class in the 1920s, turned into 1,286 species (including shells, butterflies, minerals, skeletons, seed pods, and taxidermy) in 1937, and had grown to up to more than 25,000 items by the time she retired 38 years later.

Today, the Natural History Collection consists of nearly 80,000 individual specimens, which students and faculty members of RISD have unrestricted access to, whether it’s a science, art, or design project they are working on.

“There’s definitely no other department in the university or standalone place that is anything like the Nature Lab and its Natural History Collection,” said ​​Benedict Gagliardi, Staff Biologist at the Lab. “Students can get a fully immersive experience in there – they can open cabinets and take out shells, bones, and pieces of driftwood and taxidermy animals and actually interact with them: draw, feel, move around, and spell them.”

“It’s a very welcoming environment. The notion is like: we’ll go as deep as you want to, but we aren’t going to push it on you,” said Dr. Jennifer Bissonnette, Interim Director of the Nature Lab. “And if you have questions, we have three biologists on staff that can help you dig deeper and do whatever it is you want to find out about.”

Apart from the main collection, the Nature Lab also houses collections of insects, lichens, corals, and other small-scale specimens, collections of organic and non-organic materials, living plants, rare natural history books, as well as provides access to the latest imaging equipment to explore all its variety of natural artifacts at multiple scales and dimensions. One of such imaging tools that the team at the Nature Lab added to their kit in 2015 is Artec Spider.

Adding a 3D scanner to the toolkit

“Part of what we are doing here is creating a space for the visualization to take on new directions,” said Dr. Jennifer Bissonnette, Interim Director of the Lab. “We were thinking of novel ways of appreciating those organisms, surfaces, and textures that we have here, and Artec Spider was a perfect fit because of its state-of-the-art ability to capture really fine resolution of different structures.”

Designed to scan small objects with fine details in high precision, Spider is an ideal solution for digital preservation of natural and historical artifacts in their true shape and color. Powerful, accurate, yet lightweight and easy to use, Spider became a welcome addition to the Lab’s collection of imaging equipment, alongside professional microscopes, action cameras, GPS trackers, and other tools for research and documentation of natural materials, specimens, systems, and processes.Nature Lab

The Nature Lab uses Artec Spider to digitize their 80K+ Natural History Collection (photo courtesy of the Nature Lab)

Since the moment the 3D scanner was available to the Lab faculty members and students, it quickly became one of the most popular tools. “There’s something encouraging in being given access to such a high-level piece of equipment and being able and trusted to use it,” said ​​ Gagliardi. “It makes that part of your project so more personal and connected to it, rather than just saying: Oh, can you scan this for me?”

Going digital

3D scans of taxidermy specimens, natural history objects, and materials that students captured with Spider at that time were initially stored on external hard drives by Gagliardi and his team and were solely available only to their creators through direct inquiry. But the whole process changed when the pandemic hit. Since students and faculty members couldn’t come to the Lab and interact with its collections onsite, there needed to be a way for them to access those specimens – at least some of them – digitally. That’s when Benedict came up with an idea to upload all the 3D scans they already had to Sketchfab, an online 3D model sharing platform, and create a Virtual 3D Specimen Library:

“When the pandemic hit, losing that sort of tactile learning was really difficult to substitute with any sort of digitized representation,” said Gagliardi. “But man oh man…that digital collection has been a huge benefit for the teachers who were struggling to digitize their curriculum. 3D scanning with Artec Spider was hugely, critically important to give that three-dimensional understanding of things.”

The Lab team decided to make all the models in the library freely downloadable, so both students and faculty staff could use the files, abstract them, and do whatever they wanted to make them their own.

Nautilus Shell 3D model made with Artec Spider

Having exact 3D replicas of various specimens and materials also allowed the team to bring a new perspective to their biomimicry classes:

“One of the topics that we’re working on in the lab is called biomimicry, in other words, using nature to inspire design solutions,” said Bissonnette. “Having a digital collection of different natural forms and materials allows us to analyze them, and take them to other software where we can start building off structures to modify for whatever design intention.”

The new approach also made it possible to lend the items that previously were available for “Lab only” use:

“In normal terms, we can lend out lots of specimens like library books: a hand-made glass box with a spread butterfly in it, for instance, certain types of shells and all kinds of small specimens,” said Gagliardi. “We have red dots on the things that you cannot take out. 3D scanning gave us the ability to lend those out in a way, so people could interact with them after hours or remotely far away. It really changed the way this lending process was working.”

Another advantage of having a digital catalog of 3D models online was an opportunity to connect to a global community of creators and researchers:

“We had so many exciting comments from people who incorporated our 3D scans in their own artworks, video game designs, and other disciplines,” said Gagliardi. “There are also biologists who helped us identify some of our specimens. For example, what we’ve always labeled as a chinchilla skull up on Sketchfab, turned out to be a muskrat skull.”

On typical workflow

During the pandemic, the scanning process had to change, too. With almost everyone working or studying remotely, it was Gagliardi who started scanning different specimens by requests from lecturers or students to replenish their newly created.

“Taking it into a virtual space suddenly became not just an interesting thing for students and faculty to be able to do, but critical to be able to still get access to the collection,” said Bissonnette.

Although each type of specimen is unique, most objects scanned in the Lab follow the same two-scan workflow.

First, an item is scanned one time around on top and the sides, then flipped over for another scan of the bottom and the sides. The team also uses a foldable light box from ORANGEMONKIE to achieve high-quality, evenly lit texture, and an electric turntable for smooth and steady scanning.

“From the first time I used it, I was blown away, especially by seeing the process of what Artec Studio software does,” said Gagliardi. “You get a raw scan and you think ‘cool, this looks like a thing that I’m scanning,’ but the end product, the finalized mesh, is so refined compared to the initial scan that I’m still in awe every time I get the final product out.”

After scanning is complete, the team processes the data using Autopilot mode in Artec Studio. Once done, the final model is exported directly to Sketchfab as is, or in some cases, first to Blender for additional post-processing. “The scans that Artec Studio puts out are pretty high quality, so often we just export the scan and we’re ready to go,” added Gagliardi.

Currently, the digital collection consists of 500-600 scans with almost 400 already uploaded and available for download on Sketchfab.

On future plans

Through launching their virtual library of 3D scanned specimens, the Nature Lab team gave access to some of the finest natural artifacts from Edna Lawrence legendary collection – and not only to the students and faculty members of the Rhode Island School of Design, but public schools and institutions who may not have access to such resources. It has also allowed them to connect and collaborate with other universities and museums that also use Artec scanners, photogrammetry, or other digitization methods.

“I continue to get comments, messages of thanks, and inquiries from professionals and non-professionals in the art and science world, out of RISD,” said Gagliardi. “Recently, a project manager from one of the world’s largest providers of museum technical services contacted me to verify that it was ok for them to use our painted turtle model for a casting project. I’m amazed by the wide reach and variety of connections this platform and unique resource has helped foster.”

Now back to training individual students how to create their own 3D models with the Artec Spider, the virtual collection continues to be of huge value to students, teachers, and other users. There are still remote courses at RISD that make significant use of the digital collection as a learning tool, and it has likewise been a valuable asset as the school expands Continuing Education programs via digital platforms to a wider audience.

“We definitely plan to continue building our remote digital resources,” said Gagliardi. “The pandemic has taught us so much about how valuable they are. We would have had a very different year with regard to our success in being remote if we hadn’t had Artec Spider.”

Using 3D scanning to make rubbings of 3000-year-old oracle bones

Product: Space spider
Industry: Design and Art

3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

Yinxu National Archaeological Site Park (Photo: 163.com)

The Yinxu oracle bones

Oracle bone inscriptions are the earliest known systematic characters in China and East Asia, with a history of more than 3,000 years. The oracle bones were mainly unearthed in the area of Xiaotun Village, Anyang, Henan Province. Historically called Yin, Anyang was the capital of the late Shang Dynasty. Oracle bone inscriptions are usually engraved on tortoise shells or animal bones, and most of their content is related to divination by the Yin and Shang royal families.

Today, oracle bone research has become a subject of great interest around the world. At present, more than 150,000 oracle bones have been unearthed, about 2,500 characters have been identified, and about 2,000 characters have yet to be deciphered. There are more than 500 Chinese and foreign scholars engaged in oracle bone inscriptions, with more than 3,000 monographs and papers published. The study of oracle bones has also promoted the development of various disciplines such as linguistics, history, ethnology, astronomy, meteorology, agriculture, medicine, historical geography, and archaeology.

On Dec. 26, 2017, these oracle bones were successfully included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, a compendium of the world’s documentary heritage.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

Chiselling an oracle bone (Courtesy of the CCTV documentary “the Dynasty of Oracle Bones”)

The ancient method of inscription rubbing

Since the discovery of oracle bone inscriptions by epigrapher Wang Yirong during the Guangxu period of the Qing Dynasty, oracle bone inscription researchers and enthusiasts have faced a challenge that is crucial to solve: how to transcribe, disseminate, and share the textual information on oracle bones without causing damage to the oracle bones themselves.

The mainstream traditional technique used in academia is the rubbing method, an ancient traditional technique used in China. Before the birth of modern technology, rubbing made it possible to preserve the original appearance and details of the object to the best possible extent. In addition, repeated rubbings obtain multiple identical rubbings, which is comparable to printing. The ability to make rubbings has been an essential skill for oracle researchers.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

Making a rubbing (Courtesy of the CCTV documentary “the Dynasty of Oracle Bones”)

When making rubbings, you need to apply soaked paper material onto the oracle bones and tap lightly with a brush to push the paper down into the engravings. When the paper is slightly dry, ink is evenly applied. The paper is then peeled off to form a black and white rubbing.

Although rubbing is the most mainstream transcription technique in the academic world, it has many limitations. For example, the oracle bone must be touched while making rubbings, which might cause damage to the object. In addition, the results of the final rubbing are influenced by temperature and humidity conditions, as well as the operator’s skill level.

Introducing 3D scanning

Dr. Li Zongkun is a chair professor and PhD supervisor in Humanities at Peking University, which has a collection of over 4,000 oracle bones. Dr. Li, devoted to the research and teaching classes on oracle bones and palaeography, passes the skills of rubbing on to his students using his extensive first-hand experience. However, this technique is subject to some practical limitations and demands physical contact with the bones.

One day, he came across 3D technology and decided to take a closer look: to see how well it could apply to his work with oracle bones.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

Peking University

To test his idea, Dr. Li asked a 3D scanning specialist from trusted Artec 3D reseller ASAHI-3D to scan an oracle bone in the university’s collection using Artec Space Spider. As Artec partners in China, ASAHI-3D has worked in close cooperation with Peking University and offered many 3D scanning solutions.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

For scanning: an inscribed bone used for divination. (Photo: Peking University)

The object selected for scanning was an inscribed bone that was used for divination – 31.1 cm long and 16.1 cm wide, the bone is part of a long-treasured collection in the School of Archaeology and Literature of Peking University, dating back to the late Shang dynasty (more than 3,000 years ago).

There are 45 characters on the front, and one character that has almost disappeared on the back, epitomizing the oracle bone inscriptions of the Shang dynasty. This bone can also be pieced together with another small bone (Collection of Oracle Bones, No. 11574) now in the National Library. The two divination scripts on the bone are both related to war.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

Dr. Li and a specialist from ASAHI-3D (Courtesy of the CCTV documentary “the Dynasty of Oracle Bones”)

ASAHI-3D chose Artec Space Spider to capture both sides of the oracle bone. Jiao Chunliang, Technical Director of ASAHI-3D, said, “Artec Space Spider is an amazing 3D scanner, which has played a key role in many scanning projects. Precise capture is possible even without any targets or preparation, making a lifelike digital replica well within reach. Zero contact ensures safety for cultural relics. From a cloisonné vase in the early Qing dynasty to Terracotta Warriors, reverse engineering small objects can be a walk in the park. Space Spider has made many brilliant models possible.”3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

Artec Space Spider scanning the oracle bone (Courtesy of the CCTV documentary “the Dynasty of Oracle Bones”)

An improved process

Space Spider can start capturing data in just one click, with no targets required. The specialist simply needs to point the scanner at the bone from a distance of 20-30 cm. While the scanner is moved around the bone, the captured 3D surface data is displayed on the computer screen in real time.

After the front of the bone is scanned, the bone is turned over and scanned using the same process; the scanning session takes only a few minutes from start to finish.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

Artec Studio screenshot showing scanning of the oracle bone (Courtesy of the CCTV documentary “the Dynasty of Oracle Bones”)

The scan data is then processed in Artec Studio. After outlier removal, the front and back scans of the oracle bone are aligned, so as to make a complete model. Next, global registration and fusion algorithms are run to create a final mesh model.

The oracle bone has an extensive amount of surface detail, which can prove to be a challenge from a texture-reproduction perspective. However, the photorealistic texture feature in Artec Studio fully meets the requirements of the client, and without the need for any other software, the original color was replicated using hi-res textures captured using various photogrammetry equipment (e.g. DSLR cameras). The final result: a complete, lifelike model of the oracle bone that is fully suitable for research and a range of other applications.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

A close-up of the color model

After processing the scans in Artec Studio, the 3D model can be exported to third-party software, such as Geomagic or ZBrush, for additional processing. Following the scanning process, the scanning specialist was able to present complete information on the oracle bone with the digital rubbing made from the scan data.

Using a different method of data capture from the past, a 3D-scanned digital rubbing of oracle bones no doubt offers an abundance of possibilities for digital archival and museum exhibitions.3D scanning Chinese oracle bones

A digital rubbing (left), compared to Artec Space Spider scan data

Working with Space Spider means no spray or targets are required for capturing oracle bones, which means zero risk for these priceless artifacts. The total scanning process takes only a few minutes, and Space Spider’s high-quality data and Artec Studio’s efficient algorithms together ensure a relatively small file size, which further reduces scan processing time. As a result, high-resolution color 3D models are produced quickly and easily.

Countless opportunities

Regarding the use of 3D scanning in heritage preservation, the client explained, “3D scanning technology is able to satisfy the rising demand for digitization of cultural relics. It has proven to be a reliable tool for archiving and restoring valuable heritage, and it has inspired new ideas and approaches. This is something innovative that we need to pay more attention to.”

Jiao Chunliang from ASAHI-3D added, “We are honored to be part of the oracle bone scanning process. This is a brand new way of recording history and is of much significance to heritage preservation and digital archiving. We hope that, in technical terms, the whole process is effective and the clients are pleased. As long as we have captured all the data, it may be possible to showcase the 3D models of oracle bones in a VR or AR environment, bringing cultural heritage within reach of students all over the country.”

How 3D scanning helped reveal the face of the 3500-year-old Griffin Warrior

Product: Artec Spider
Industry: Medical and Forensic

For thirty-five centuries his body rested in a tomb beneath an olive grove just a short walk from the Palace of Nestor in southern Greece. Surrounding him were more than 2,000 objects dating back to the Bronze Age, including gold cups, rings, and necklaces, hundreds of precious gems, an ornate sword, and the breathtaking, intricately carved Pylos Combat Agate.Griffin Warrior

A gold-hilted dagger that had originally been resting upon the chest of the Griffin Warrior. Image courtesy of the Palace of Nestor Excavations, Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati

Given the name “Griffin Warrior” after an ivory plaque bearing the engraving of a griffin was found with him, this ancient Mycenaean nobleman’s true identity is still a mystery.Griffin Warrior

Drs. Sharon Stocker during the excavation of the Griffin Warrior’s tomb. Image courtesy of the Palace of Nestor Excavations, Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati

But while University of Cincinnati archaeologists Jack Davis and Sharon Stocker excavated his tomb over the course of six months, as soon as they discovered the mostly intact skeleton of the Griffin Warrior, they turned to the science of forensic facial approximation to see what he had looked like in real life.Griffin Warrior

Griffin Warrior grave excavation plan. Image courtesy of the Palace of Nestor Excavations, Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati

Biological anthropologist Prof. Lynne Schepartz and facial anthropologist Dr. Tobias Houlton were brought in to assist with this complex, multi-stage process. Schepartz led the excavation of the skull fragments, and Houlton focused on the skull reconstruction and face prediction of the Griffin Warrior.

As course coordinator and lecturer for the MSc in Forensic Art and Facial Imaging program at the University of Dundee, Scotland, as well as a forensic artist and expert in his field, Houlton has worked with Interpol and numerous police agencies in the UK and South Africa on various cases requiring facial approximation for victim identification.

His work has been recognized by National Geographic Magazine, the Smithsonian Channel, BBC Radio 4, and elsewhere.

Taking the right 3D scanner for the task

When it was time to travel to Greece, to begin the excavation and reconstruction of the Griffin Warrior, Houlton brought an Artec Spider along with him.Griffin Warrior

Artec Spider scans of the Griffin Warrior’s skull in-situ. Image courtesy of Dr. Tobias Houlton

A first-choice 3D scanner among forensic specialists and researchers around the world, the Spider is recognized for its abilities to non-destructively capture objects of all shapes and complexities, with submillimeter degrees of accuracy, even those with otherwise-challenging features, such as cranial sutures, wafer-thin bone fragments, etc.

In Houlton’s words, “I knew that the Spider would fit in perfectly with my workflow. Instead of having to adjust everything to meet the needs of the technology, which is what happens with many solutions, Spider was right there with me at every step.”Griffin Warrior

The digitally reconstructed skull of the Griffin Warrior in Artec Studio software, image courtesy of Dr. Tobias Houlton

“Before I lifted a cranial fragment from the sediment, I would scan that layer, in order to preserve each fragment’s exact location and orientation within the sediment.”

He continued, “Then I would scan each piece again, right after excavating it, and would also temporarily glue together groups of fragments and scan these. That way, when it came time to digitally reconstruct the skull, the Spider scans provided precise digital twins of these skull fragments, not to mention the original in-situ scans, which from an archaeological point of view are indispensable.”

CT scanning through ancient soil

But before that could take place, the block of sediment containing the Griffin Warrior’s remains was extracted from the site and brought to the lab. There, a CT scanner was used, to try and distinguish any skeletal elements from the other objects around them.

Unfortunately, the CT wasn’t able to differentiate bone from the other objects in the sediment, yet at least it provided a map of object locations, which later proved useful while extracting the Griffin Warrior’s skeletal remains.

Houlton’s scans were done directly within Artec Studio software, with each scan taking around one minute or less for full capture of individual cranial fragments and sediment layers.

Following this, the scans were processed into 3D models, and what’s more, because Geomagic Freeform wasn’t accessible to Houlton at that moment, he fully reassembled the Griffin Warrior’s skull in Artec Studio.

According to Houlton, “Artec Studio’s alignment tools made it easy for me to select specific fragments, move them around, and align them properly in relation to all the other pieces. It didn’t take long for me to reassemble everything and finally obtain a digitally reconstructed version of the Griffin Warrior’s skull.”

When traditional casting is too risky, 3D “digital casting” is ready to help

Reflecting back on traditional casting methods for documenting skeletal remains, Houlton said, “In the case of the Griffin Warrior, many of the skull fragments were so fragile that there would have been no way for us to safely cast them.”

He elaborated, “Yet Artec Spider ‘digitally cast’ each one in just seconds, and now we have protected 3D copies of them, without ever damaging or posing any danger to the original objects.”

Once back at the office, Houlton exported the digital twin of the Griffin Warrior’s skull from Artec Studio over to Geomagic Freeform, for the actual facial approximation.

Freeform: first choice for digital skull reconstruction and facial approximation

With the software’s ability to put the reconstructionist in direct kinesthetic contact with the 3D object via a haptic pen interface, Freeform is an ideal tool for anyone doing the work, from student to accomplished practitioner.Griffin Warrior

Geomagic Freeform screenshot showing the Griffin Warrior’s skull ready for facial approximation. Image courtesy of Dr. Tobias Houlton

Unlike traditional clay facial approximations, Freeform makes it possible to share the entire approximation with agencies or digital artists near and far, in seconds from the time of completion.

Even more consequential is the guarantee that with digital approximations, in contrast with clay, there’s no danger of the original ever being damaged or lost.

Expanding upon this, Houlton said, “Now, once we’re done with an approximation in Freeform, if the original skull is ever lost or destroyed, and if there’s ever any question about the accuracy of the predicted face, all it takes is referring back to the Spider scans of the skull.”Griffin Warrior

Geomagic Freeform screenshot showing the Griffin Warrior’s facial approximation underway. Image courtesy of Dr. Tobias Houlton

“Within seconds, you’ll be able to verify, without even a glimmer of doubt, the accuracy of the skull reconstruction. Because when you’re looking at the Spider scans, it’s as close to looking at the real skull as anything else,” he said.

Houlton shares with his students at University of Dundee his full spectrum of insider workflow tips and tricks with Freeform.

So, whether they’ll eventually find themselves working as facial approximation practitioners in cooperation with police or intelligence agencies, or as CGI specialists immersed in the world of film, TV, or video games, they’ll have all the foundation they need to transform Artec 3D scans into stunningly lifelike facial approximations.

Rebuilding the face of the Griffin Warrior in Freeform

Since several of the Griffin Warrior’s thinner facial bones were missing, specifically those around the nose, as they’d disintegrated over time due to the acidic soil conditions at the grave site, Houlton relied on his own approach to accurately fill in the gaps.

He created an average face template from the images of 50 faces of modern Greek men of similar age and build, and then brought them together in Abrosoft FantaMorph. Facial averages identify consistent trends in facial patterns, which supported Houlton with the remaining approximation where individual details cannot be ascertained.Griffin Warrior

In Geomagic Freeform – using the tissue depth markers to help build the Griffin Warrior’s face. Image courtesy of Dr. Tobias Houlton

During the approximation, Houlton first inserted the eyes, then all the tissue depth markers (up to 36), followed by the muscles and the skin layer. Freeform’s ability to let users organize and label all these features as independent objects and store them in their own folders is highly useful during facial approximation.

The Griffin Warrior’s face reborn: from digitally reconstructed skull to final facial approximation. Video courtesy of Dr. Tobias Houlton

As well, the software’s ability to “see through” the model and down below the skin, ensuring that soft and hard features relate to each other, saves the digital practitioner from what manual modelers must regularly endure: physically cutting into the clay/modeling wax to check with the underlying skull cast.

Why 2D photography should never be the first choice

When asked to compare working from 2D photographs versus 3D scans for facial approximation, Houlton commented, “2D photos should be a last resort. To give you an example why they’re not desirable, it’s very hard to gauge how deep the fossae are around the canine area, which in part indicates the form of the nasolabial folds.”

He continued, “In general, when it comes to accuracy and vivid realism, 3D scanning lets you achieve fantastic results compared to what you can do with 2D photos.”

In fact, the breadth of precise surface data provided by the Spider scans is more than sufficient for performing reconstructions directly from the scans, without having the original skull present as a reference model.Griffin Warrior

Dr. Tobias Houlton scanning a cranial fragment with Artec Space Spider at the University of Dundee. Image courtesy of Dr. Tobias Houlton

Houlton has done that very thing in multiple international projects over the years. “Having 3D scans of this degree of accuracy makes it possible to take on facial approximation work without ever having to leave our offices.”

Whenever the need arises for a physical model of an approximation, whether for investigative, legal, or other purposes, it’s a simple step to export the digital approximation for 3D printing.

In practice, this can mean finishing a facial approximation, sharing the 3D model with the client, who receives it seconds later, even on the other side of the world. Then they begin reviewing it on-screen while 3D printing a physical model, ready for use just hours later.

3D scanning & 3D printing in human anatomy education

At the University of Dundee’s Digital Making facility, with its collection of 28 various 3D scanners, Houlton and his students have been 3D printing their Spider scans, along with scans from Dundee’s other Artec scanners: Eva and Space Spider.

The successor to Spider, Space Spider features all the power of its predecessor, in addition to powerful temperature stabilization and high-grade electronics.Griffin Warrior

The Artec Space Spider

Dundee’s MSc Forensic Art and Facial Imaging program adopted Artec scanners as part of their curriculum years ago, after being introduced to them by Artec 3D Gold Partner Patrick Thorn.

A highly experienced specialist in 3D scanning for education, cultural heritage, forensics, healthcare, and beyond, Thorn endeavors to understand the needs of his clients, to help them integrate the very best solutions possible. He also conducts workshops for his clients in numerous locations across the U.K., from the tip of Cornwall up to northern Scotland.

Lifelike 3D-printed bone and skull models in the classroom

Houlton commented on how essential 3D printing has been for teaching human anatomy at Dundee, saying, “We regularly work with 3D prints of skulls and other bones, since physically handling these models is immensely conducive to the learning process. And this is another area where our Artec scanners have proven useful.”

He continued, “For example, if you take some 3D-printed cranial anatomy made from Spider scans and set it side-by-side with a 3D print of the same piece of skull, yet made using scans from other 3D scanners we’ve tried, you can see a massive difference in terms of detail, accuracy, and realism.”

As explained in a previous case study, the University of Dundee continues to expand its work with 3D scanning and printing with each passing semester.

For the medical and forensic art students there, by the time they graduate, they will be fully capable of picking up an Artec 3D scanner, capturing any of the human body’s 206 bones in minutes, then transforming those scans into lifelike 3D models ready for AR, VR, 3D printing, or facial approximation in Freeform.

Facial decomposition, documenting mass graves, and beyond

Houlton’s latest project will take him to South Africa with the University of Witwatersrand. There he’ll be working with a PhD student and academic team on a project dedicated to researching the effects of decomposition on human faces, identifying the degree of changes taking place post-mortem, to understand what this means for facial recognition.

Following this, Houlton is hoping to embark upon an archaeology-based project with the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, working locally as well as throughout various countries/regions of Africa, engaging with documentation of mass grave sites.

Artec Space Spider meets Car SOS to restore one of Britain’s best-selling auto classics

Product: Artec 3D Space Spider
Industry: Automotive and Transportation

Car SOS TV hosts (left and in the center) and the lucky owner of the restored Ford Cortina Mark III after the grand reveal

Meet Bobby

When 54-year-old Sikh historian and writer Bobby Singh bought his Ford Cortina Mark III XL back in 1999, he didn’t think it would take long for him and his 1970s British classic car to hit the road again.

But his plans came to a screeching halt in 2002 when Bobby, then in his mid-thirties, suffered a stroke. Not long after, in 2008, his family business collapsed, and then Bobby was diagnosed with heart disease. Throughout this devastating chain of events, Bobby’s family lost everything. Then, in 2018, yet more bad news arrived: doctors discovered a benign tumor in Bobby’s brain.

For more than 20 years, his Mark III sat locked away in the garage at his family’s home in Syston, a town in East Midlands, England. The once-remarkable car had suffered visibly in the process, having become overgrown with corrosion, rot, and dust.

Calling in Car SOS

Until one day, his wife Harvinder and their son Aman decided to resurrect Bobby’s old automotive dream. And what do people in the United Kingdom do when they need to rescue their friend’s or family member’s classic from rusty retirement? That’s right: they call in Car SOS, a British automotive TV show aired on National Geographic automotive TV show that documents done-in-secret classic car restorations for needy or down-on-their-luck owners. The show is driven by two hosts, car enthusiast Tim Shaw and master mechanic Fuzz Townshend, who together with their team of automotive technicians bring old classics back to life.

Touched by the story that Harvinder and Aman shared, Tim and Fuzz jumped in to help right away. Soon enough, they arranged to meet Harvinder and Aman, and to pick up Bobby’s Mark III for major restoration, with the hope that the project would give Bobby a much-needed boost.

Car SOS hosts meet Bobby’s family and his car for the first time (Photo: National Geographic)

Although at first glance the car looked as if it was in fairly decent condition, the crew at the legendary Car SOS workshop in Birmingham conducted a thorough check-up followed by disassembly, which revealed that Bobby’s Ford Cortina needed a considerable pick-me-up of its own.

For instance, nearly the entire undercarriage had rusted over and was covered with rot, the 1600cc Kent Crossflow engine was fully worn out, requiring a new set of gaskets and servicing, and the back axles, known to be prone to wear, demanded a thorough inspection and refurbishing.

Some parts were also missing, including the center console, which Tim, responsible for sourcing all the parts in the show, was sent on a mission to find. Sourcing auto parts and components for classic cars has always been a challenge (not only for these technicians!), and this time, the host was out of luck when trying to hunt down the missing piece. He did, however, manage to borrow one for a few days, so that they could use it as a reference model to design the new console. But, given the show’s tight timeline, they needed a solution, and fast. That solution was, of course, 3D scanning and 3D printing.

3D scanning at Central Scanning, Ltd.

To construct an extremely-accurate 3D reproduction of Cortina’s console, Tim reached out to Central Scanning, an Artec Ambassador in the UK. Based in Birmingham, Central Scanning has been one of the key providers of 3D scanning products and services in the UK since 2006, covering a wide range of industries from aerospace to engineering, as well as medical and artistic applications. As 3D scanning experts, Central Scanning’s engineers have accomplished countless projects with the help of Artec 3D scanners, and this one would prove to be no exception.

“Quite a few of us at Central Scanning are car fans, and I have a few classic cars myself,” said Nick Godfrey, managing director of Central Scanning. For Nick and his team, the program has always been of interest – especially since the Car SOS team’s members are all based in Birmingham.

“It’s always been nice to think that one day, Central Scanning may appear on TV, and so when the discussions started, we were very keen to support this project however possible.”

Tim Shaw from Car SOS and the Central Scanning team (Photo: Central Scanning)

Having scanned everything from entire cars to chassis, engine parts, interior parts and suspension components for classic cars in the past, the team was ready for the challenge. Tom White, Central Scanning’s applications engineer at the time, met Tim at their workshop soon after the Ford had safely and secretly been relocated to the Car SOS premises. After Tom examined the console, he concluded that Artec Space Spider would be the most suitable 3D scanner for the job.

Developed for use on the International Space Station, Artec Space Spider is known for its ability to capture complex shapes and fine details with a metrological accuracy of up to 0.05 mm and an ultra-high resolution of up to 0.1 mm. This is why many engineers, and car mechanics in particular, use the scanner for reverse engineering, as well as quality inspection of car parts.

While this console isn’t particularly big, it does feature a hard-to-scan glossy black finish: a type of surface notoriously difficult to 3D scan. To assist the process, the object was coated with matting spray pre-scan. In this case, Tom used AESUB Blue matting spray, which would vanish from the surface post-scan.

The goal was to create an accurate, true-to-life model for 3D printing. Within the hour, the part had been prepared for scanning, had all its data captured, and was processed first into a mesh and then a CAD model in Artec Studio with some additional modeling done in Autodesk Fusion 360. After being prepared in GrabCAD Print, the final STL file was sent for 3D printing; this took another 8 hours to build an exact copy of the matching console, layer by layer.

On why 3D scanning was chosen as the go-to method to reverse engineer the missing console, Nick said: “The scanning provided a quick solution to be able to gain accurate data without affecting the original part as Tim had ‘borrowed’ the part from another car!”

While an alternative could have been to take a mold from the part and make a fiberglass part, this option would have taken longer, and been far more expensive.

Creating an exact replica was necessary to get the car road ready (Photo: National Geographic)

Just like that, the missing part was recreated from bottom to top, accurate down below a millimeter, and soon Tim was on his way back to the workshop with a freshly 3D-printed console.

Let the restoration begin!

Yet it was still too soon for the new part to take its place in the Ford Cortina’s interior; this was just the beginning of what turned out to be a full-blown makeover. As Tim had been chasing down this rare part, Fuzz unearthed a whole array of mechanical issues while taking a closer look at the crossflow engine and its inner workings.

The engine was fully worn out and needed a complete overhaul, and the car body wasn’t looking too well either. After the Cortina came back from sandblasting (a process that involves removing paint or rust from the car’s body or frame), more trouble was revealed: the entire body of the vintage auto was covered in holes and patches from front to rear.

Restoring the car to its original smoothness with sandblasting (Photo: National Geographic)

The Car SOS bodywork team got straight to work, welding and grinding to get rid of those holes and make the body surface as smooth as it once was. Following this, the car body went straight into the paint booth for a spray coat of that oh-so-’70s tangerine paint. Then, it was time for all the mechanical work to commence: installing the new gasket set in the rear axle and refilling it with some fresh oil, repairing the clutch friction plates, and much more.

After that, all the new and restored inner and outer parts were reinstalled in the freshly painted body, including the previously 3D scanned and printed center console.

When all the pieces were fitted together, it was time for Tim and Fuzz to get the engine started and return the fully restored Ford Cortina Mark III to Bobby.

Improved Manufacturing Process with Artec 3D Scanner and Geomagic Control X Software

Product: Control X, Artec 3D Space Spider
Industry: Foundry

As new production technologies evolve, new technical challenges arise in manufacturing the best possible part. Often a contract manufacturer has to tune the new process significantly the first time it attempts production to understand elements such as shrinkage, surface finish, and repeatability. Additive manufacturing (AM) is no exception, and yet tools to track these elements for this production methodology have lagged behind. That is now changing.

Most manufactured goods follow a common process through their life cycle to production. Design, manufacture, inspect is a generalized way to consider process, stages, and responsibilities, each one being key to producing high-quality parts. Depending on the complexity and nature of the part being manufactured, the real workflow can have many tuning loops and feedback.

Flujo de trabajo de fabricación

The following workflow example demonstrates how the Artec 3D Space Spider scanner and Geomagic Control X software together provided total shape capture and analysis on 3D-printed wax casting patterns and cast parts at all stages in the design, prove out, and manufacturing process.

Infografía de flujo de trabajo de diseño, creación de patrones, fundición y control de calidad para el software de inspección Geomagic Control X y el escáner Artec 3D Space Spider
Software de escaneo Artec Studio
Artec Studio scanning software

The Artec 3D Space Spider is an ultra-high-resolution handheld 3D scanner that excels at precisely capturing small objects and complex details for dimensional inspection.

With plug-and-play operation, the Space Spider scans objects easily, without complicated preparation and extensive user training, allowing customers to digitize parts anywhere. The Artec 3D proprietary target-free algorithms allow the scanner to track the object by its shape and color alone—no need to apply targets to the object.

Geomagic Control X from 3D Systems is an industrial metrology software that enables root cause analysis (RCA) and correction for manufacturing. As a 3D scan-native software, Geomagic Control X is an ideal solution for metrology with portable measurement devices. With Geomagic Control X, more people in your organization can measure faster, more often, and more completely—from anywhere.

The total solution provides unique insight into successful production in a complex manufacturing process. The result? Greatly-improved overall final part quality, accuracy, and repeatability.


For this workflow example, we replicated a real customer project, but generalized the details. In this case, the customer was developing a specialized, autonomous-driving, light-duty vehicle. To speed time-to-market, they selected and combined a range of components and systems from vehicles on the market today to complete a working prototype. In this process, they found a specific steering knuckle (one each per) was valuable to the project and they needed to digitize and capture the design so that they could further modify and manufacture it in a light-weight material.

To begin work, they 3D scanned and reverse engineered the original casting. They used the Artec 3D Space Spider scanner for rapid digitization and then quickly and accurately modeled the part in Geomagic Design X with a unique hybrid-modeling approach. Typically, customers will follow either an as-built (very accurate) or design-intent (dimension-driven) modeling method. A hybrid modeling approach consists of combining both of those concepts to deliver a CAD solid model result that has both dimensioned features as well as highly-accurate NURBs surfaces. Using this strategy, they completed the model in under 1.5 hours and live-transfered to SOLIDWORKS as feature-based CAD.

Escaneo de piezas originales
Original part scan
Modelo CAD híbrido
Hybrid CAD model
Modelo derrotado para imprimir
Defeatured model for print
Impresión de cera sin terminar de la impresora 3D ProJet® MJP 2500 IC de 3D Systems
Unfinished wax print from the ProJet MJP 2500 IC
Sección transversal de muestra del modo de relleno disperso impreso en la impresora 3D ProJet® MJP 2500 IC de 3D Systems
Sample cross section of sparse infill mode printed on ProJet MJP 2500 IC

Pattern Making

AM has been used in aerospace and automotive applications to produce sacrificial casting patterns for decades. With recent advances in 3D printing, industrial-grade patterns can be printed in wax or polymer at a significantly lower cost, which work seamlessly in the investment-casting process. 3D Systems is seeing more distributed adoption of tool-less additive pattern making and will continue to grow as the technology becomes more accessible, rapid, and precise.

For any additive process that involves heat energy in material deposition or post processing, there is some amount of part warpage and settling that could occur. Parts that have significant mass or a significant cross-sectional area will retain heat for longer than smaller or thinner parts.

Based on this knowledge, 3D Systems tested two printing methods with the goal of having the lowest possible cost of printed goods and the highest level of dimensional stability: a completely solid wax-printing method as well as a thin, shell/sparse wax-infill method. Both were prepared with 3D Sprint build client software and printed on the ProJet MJP 2500 IC 3D printer that produces wax casting patterns. From prior experience, we found that a 2 mm shell with a 50% sparse infill ratio produces high-quality, stable parts when printing relatively large parts.

After post processing and cooling time, we used the same Artec 3D Space Spider scanner to scan the two patterns with relative ease. The unique shape of the parts, the green wax color, and the slight dulling and whitening effect of the post process enabled our scanning technician to capture the models smoothly using Geometry + Texture tracking.

Using Geomagic Control X, we imported the 3D Sprint build file directly and inspected each part in its exact print orientation for the inspection routine. Knowing that we would be scanning the subject part iteratively to improve the process, we were able to set up one detailed inspection project and duplicate it several times while maintaining the entire process development history in a single Geomagic Control X file. After completing the scans, we simply dropped each new STL file into the Geomagic Control X project and the evaluation process automatically took over, resulting in high-quality, repeatable reports.

We found that, generally, all areas with machining offsets were within the casting tolerance, but the more free-form areas presented trends outside a tight tolerance band. We believe this properly correlated our assumptions that large cross-section areas retain heat and potentially change shape when cooling.

Our comprehensive analysis for this stage helped us draw some conclusions that 3D printing with the wax pattern was not only more cost-effective, but also more dimensionally-compliant after post processing.

  • Material usage was reduce by about 35%.
  • Material cost was reduced by about 27%.
  • Overall compliance with tolerances were increased by about 10% (using 3D comparison).
  • The solid part did not pass the tolerance threshold
  • The infill part passed the tolerance threshold.
  • Long-term dimensional stability at room temperature was improved over the solid part.
Análisis de patrones de cera sólida
Solid wax pattern analysis
Patrón de cera con análisis de relleno
Wax pattern with infill analysis

Breathing new life into classic cars: scanning in perfect 3D down to the tiniest parts

Product: Artec Space Spider
Industry: Automotive and Transportation

Classic-Car.TV digitizes a unique 1937 Ford Eifel with Artec 3D scanners at the MakerSpace innovation center of the Technical University of Munich

How can you capture the current state of a very rare classic car and take accurate measurements of it in order to preserve it for posterity and ensure spare parts can be made in the event of an accident or damage? The team at Classic-Car.TV is no newcomer to tasks like these. Passionate about everything related to old-timers, they publish articles, photos and videos on the Classic-Car.TV website to give their audience the big picture of the classic car world. Classic-Car.TV produces new stories every week, reaching around 300,000 international readers a month.

Objectives and advantages of using 3D scanning for classic cars

The Classic-Car.TV team is now working on developing a database of classic car 3D models, one of which is a 1937 Ford Eifel. The vehicle has a special Gläser chassis and is therefore considered an absolutely unique piece.

Ford Eifel, prepared for scanning. Targets were used on large featureless surfaces to ensure better tracking

Until recently, old-timers were captured manually using stencil frames: a frame was placed around the vehicle and graphically scanned slice by slice. Wooden skeletons were created from the resulting cross-sections to reproduce the vehicle’s shape. Although this method is quite popular, it is expensive, time-consuming and not always accurate enough.

Using 3D scanners for this task is proven to save time and money, delivering more accurate results compared to the traditional method. Scans of individual parts can be used for reverse engineering, where parts are examined and often modified in order to produce spares. This is especially important for unique cars like the Ford, in case they are damaged. This car is missing its retractable top, which can now be recreated. In addition, the owner of the car wanted to document its condition as accurately as possible, which included taking 3D measurements. The data can also be used for 3D printing – a 1:4 model of this Ford has already been created.

Artec 3D: Cooperation with MakerSpace makes exciting projects happen

The digitization of the Ford Eifel was facilitated by the MakerSpace high-tech workshop, based at UnternehmerTUM, which is the innovation center of the Technical University of Munich. Housed on 1,500 sq m, MakerSpace features various manufacturing areas for processing metal, wood, textile and other materials using modern equipment. The Classic-Car.TV team came to the workshop in order to 3D digitize the Ford with Eva and Space Spider scanners, provided to MakerSpace by Artec 3D and supported by Artec Gold reseller KLIB.

“Our expertise lies in the presentation of restoration methods for classic cars,” said Kay MacKenneth, editor-in-chief of Classic-Car.TV. “Modern technology is becoming more prevalent here.”

Scanning the lead frames

3D scanners deliver high-quality data down to the smallest detail

The team used the Eva and Space Spider handheld 3D scanners to collect as much data on the 80-year-old Ford as possible. The more information about the body of the car, the easier it is to put scans together for a complete 3D model. On the other hand, not too many scans should be made: each scanning session generates a bulk of data, which requires the use of powerful computers.

It proved helpful that the body of the Ford was covered with matte anti-corrosion primer and has no glossy finish – this spared the team of the need to use anti-glare spray, making scanning easier. The Ford’s body, interior, wooden frame and the ladder frame on which the body rests were scanned with Artec Eva. This allowed for acquiring accurate digital measurements and locating missing stiffeners in order to make them separately later. But that alone was not enough: the old-timer was disassembled so the team could scan its hard-to-reach parts. That’s where Space Spider, an ideal tool for detailed digitization, came into play: It captured individual parts in extremely high resolution.

Scanning the interior of the Ford

“Working with Artec 3D scanners was a completely new experience for me and it opened up a whole new world of possibilities,” said Kay MacKenneth. “In the past, you had to measure a classic car with templates and build appropriate models. This would take months and there was the risk of ending up with deviations. In my opinion, a 3D scanner should nowadays be part of any advanced classic car garage.”

Processing scans in Artec Studio

Individual scans were aligned and fused in Artec Studio 3D modeling software. During data processing, scans were checked for possible holes. The scanning of the Ford went smoothly, and retouching had to be applied only to a few corners and cavities that were too angular to capture. At the end of the process, a point cloud, a polygon model and a texture dataset were created.

The comprehensive 3D data makes it easy to proceed with the restoration of the car. The 1:1 model can now be used to create 3D prints, sheet metal dies and spare parts. Thanks to the Artec 3D scanners, the one-off vintage car has been preserved for posterity, car fans and its owner.

“The scope of work is huge, and the scan results will certainly save months of work,” said Kay, who at the end of August 2017 presented the original model under the motto “Future Meets Past” at the Concorso Competizione Sportivo exhibition in Munich.

3D-model of the Ford

Classic-Car.TV: Further 3D scanning projects

“Together with MakerSpace and Artec 3D, we are working on several cases in which we can show how high-tech methods can be integrated into traditional professional restoration,” said Kay. “This begins with the reconstruction of parts and extends to mold-making and capturing entire vehicle shapes in order to be able to recreate the vehicle in case of damage. This is very important, especially for rare vehicles.”

Speaking about his next projects, Kay mentioned scanning Fiat 600 Elaborazione Frua, a unique piece constructed by Italian designer Pietro Frua. The car is missing turn signal mountings on the fenders. They had very special design and are now to be reconstructed by means of 3D scanning and reverse engineering. “We will also use the scanners for other stencil forms in chassis production in order to create illustrative material,” said Kay.

Artec Space Spider scans gigantic 150-million-year-old Stegosaurus skeleton

Product: Artec Space Spider
Industry: Design and Art

One of the most iconic scenes depicted in a dinosaur exhibit has to be the Stegosaurus and Allosaurus facing off in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The 26-foot-long Stegosaurus represents Colorado’s State Dinosaur. Not just the species of dinosaur, but the individual specimen that was adopted to represent the state. Stegosaurus was a herbivorous dinosaur weighing up to 10 tons that inhabited the area now called Colorado 150 million years ago. What makes this particular Stegosaurus so special is not the fact that it was found in Cañon City, Colorado, or even that it was mostly complete, a very rare thing for dinosaur skeletons. It was found by a class of high school students on a fossil-hunting field trip in 1936, and the teacher of that class of students, Frederick Carl Kessler, was able to arrange for his students to work alongside professional paleontologists to excavate the fossil skeleton.

Enter Mike Triebold of Triebold Paleontology, Inc. (TPI) in Woodland Park, Colorado. TPI restores and mounts fossil skeletons and creates skeleton casts, supplying them to museums across the globe. The company’s clients include the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. The TPI headquarters house a collection of casts and original fossil specimens, which are on exhibit at the company’s hands-on natural history museum, the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center.

Mike Triebold was looking to add a Stegosaurus to his catalog of casts, but not just any Stegosaurus. He was focused on getting the famous Kessler Stegosaurus at the Denver Museum for the project if at all possible because the new Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience in Canon City was being built and they wanted a copy of the Stegosaurus that was collected by Kessler near Canon City.  RGDE owner Zach Reynolds’ grandfather regularly accompanied Kessler on dinosaur digs from the 40s through the 60s, so the Stegosaurus has both family and community ties.

Discussions ensued and with the Denver Museum’s blessing, the work began

Reproducing this specimen was complicated by a couple of factors. One is the size of the specimen. Not only is this dinosaur over 26 feet long, but with the tall plates lining its neck, back and tail, it is also over 9 feet tall. Normally the size would not be an insurmountable challenge as each individual bone would just be molded in silicone and cast from liquid plastics. This specimen is not just bones on shelves though. It was mounted and placed on exhibit in the 1990s using purely permanent means, so it was not built to ever be taken apart. Steel was shaped around the skeleton, welded in place, and permanently puttied to the bones, so molding the individual bones in silicone was rendered impossible.

To recreate this specimen TPI’s Matt Christopher needed to mold it using 3D scanning. “We needed to three-dimensionally digitize the skeleton that could not be dismantled so that a replica could be 3D printed,” says Matt. “The dimensions and surface details needed to be close enough to what we would get from a silicone mold so that we could hand-finish 3D prints to look exactly like the original specimen.”

TPI used Artec Spider structured-light 3D scanner along with Artec Studio 3D scanning and processing software for the job. The scanner was supplied by Artec’s local partner 3D Printing Colorado. “Our Artec Spider captured exactly what we needed,” says Matt.

Spider was used to scan individual bones and regions of the skeleton as individual projects in Artec Studio. “This involved crawling inside the rib cage (yes, a full-grown person fits inside the rib cage of Stegosaurus) to capture the dorsal vertebrae forming the dinosaur’s back and the medial surfaces of the rib cage, shoulder blades, and hips,” says Matt. “There were also some interesting poses taken atop a step ladder to reach the tops of the big fan-shaped plates on the dinosaur’s back. We were able to capture all of the elements we needed, from the tip of the nose to the huge spikes at the end of the tail.”

The team ended up with 629 individual scans across 71 individual scan projects in Artec Studio. The number could have been higher, but in order to save time it was decided to skip scanning the elements that could be mirror-imaged to generate the other side, like the arms, legs and ribs.

Each scan needed to be aligned, cropped, and converted to 3D mesh files in Artec Studio. “The alignment features in Artec Studio were absolutely paramount to the success of this project,” says Matt. “Aligning each scan was as simple as manually orienting to a loose approximation of the correct position and letting the alignment tool refine the fit to perfection. Using Artec Studio to create and control the mesh generated from the aligned scans allowed us to extract the exact level of detail we wanted for manipulating and 3D printing.”

Exported meshes were free of artifacts thanks to a filter in Artec Studio that removes all elements smaller than the master scan. Small holes were automatically filled using the hole filling algorithm in Artec Studio. “Had we been scanning individual, unmounted bones, it would have been easy to generate complete, watertight meshes directly out of Artec Studio that would have required no additional post processing” says Matt. “With the steel armature remaining to be removed and the obstructed surfaces left to be reconstructed, watertight meshes were not really an option or a necessity for remaking the Stegosaurus.”

The resulting meshes were imported into ZBrush for separation of articulated elements, reconstruction of surfaces that were impossible to reach with the 3D scanner, like the spaces between articulated bones, and removal of the steel armature that obscured some bone surfaces.

TPI has a variety of 3D printers at their disposal ranging from a small Formlabs Form2 SLA desktop unit to a large-format Atlas from Titan Robotics. With numerous printers working on the project, printing the skeleton required six months. As the prints were finished, they were lightly resurfaced by hand and prepared for molding by adding mockups for internal steel armature and articulating some specimens to be molded in sections rather than as individual bones. Each completed bone or assembly is called a master. These masters were then molded in silicone rubber using high quality liquid silicone rubbers in two-part to multiple-part molds; something TPI staff has been doing for nearly 30 years.

The finished molds were then fitted with internal steel to be surrounded by plastic resins in the casting process. “The plastic is poured around the steel, so no external armature that would hide bone surfaces is needed,” says Mike. “With the casts poured around the armature, we can assemble the skeleton in any one of an infinite number of poses and weld together the steel protruding from inside each plastic cast. The mounted skeleton is then ready for hand-painting and delivery.”

With the project now completed, it will be on permanent display at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience (  www.dinoxp.com ) in Canon City, Colorado, being unveiled on Saturday, May 19th. Zach Reynolds, his family and dad Dave will now be able to share the fulfilment of this important wish with the public for years to come.

According to Mike, this project would have been impossible to complete a couple of decades ago. “With our Artec Spider we were able to marry the best technologies of today with the most advanced traditional methods of molding and casting to create an exact copy of that great dinosaur without even touching it,” he says. “Now, how about that Allosaurus…”

Artec SDK for a faster automated, error-free robotic scanning process

Product: Artec Space Spider
Industry: Academic

An international group of researchers have used Artec Scanning SDK and Artec Spider mounted to a robotic arm to develop a new automated scanning method which produces 3D scans of great quality even when scanning small objects with complicated geometry. A number of comparative tests have proved that the new method effectively outperforms previous scanning techniques.

3D scanning physical objects may present quite a large challenge, especially when the object has a complicated texture and occlusions. There has been a great deal of research carried out to eliminate the amount of damaged data and blind spots in resulting 3D images, and one team has come up with some really impressive results.

A new scanning method has been devised by a group of engineers from Visual Computing Research Center, Tel-Aviv University, the Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of Konstanz and Shandong University.

In a series of experiments, the researchers used Artec’s 3D scanner fixed to an arm of an anthropomorphic robot, PR2, to scan a number of small objects placed on a resin table that the robot held and rotated in its other hand.

For their experiments, the team chose Artec Spider over other 3D scanning solutions. Spider is an ideal tool for scanning small objects since it sees even the sharpest edges and very tiny parts.

Spider produces images of extremely high resolution (up to 0.1 mm) and superior accuracy (up to 0.05 mm), capturing up to 7.5 frames per second and processing 1,000,000 points per second. The frames are fused in real time, meaning that no complicated post-processing is required.

Together with Artec Studio 3D modeling software, it is a powerful, desktop tool for designers, engineers and inventors of every kind, and with Artec Scanning SDK, it can now be incorporated into any specialized scanning system.

The main objective of the experiments was to ensure high fidelity scanning of the objects. This goal was achieved by placing the scanner at strategically selected Next-Best-Views (NBVs) to progressively capture the geometric details of the object, until both completeness and high fidelity were reached.

The idea of the new autonomous scanning system boils down to the analysis of the data acquired by the scanner and the generation of a set of NBVs for the scanning robot.

The scanning process starts with a blind, all-around scanning of the object to obtain an initial point cloud that roughly covers large portions of the object’s surface. Then a set of NBVs, or candidate viewpoints, is generated based on the screened Poisson equation.

The robot then moves the scanner so as to take snapshots from these viewpoints. When the robot’s hand holding the scanner has reached the assigned viewpoint, a scan is made. The system obtains the frame, which is then registered and merged with the initial image.

To avoid losing detail, the new algorithm creates a confidence map, accurately detecting low-quality areas where additional scans need to be applied.

The scanning process was programmed using Artec’s Scanning SDK. The scanning takes place automatically and stops once the specified reconstruction requirement has been reached.

The new algorithm was compared to two other NBV-based algorithms, one focused on visibility and the other one on boundaries. The new approach proved to provide higher quality of scanning.

The researchers also compared their algorithm to curvature- and density-based approaches to again show that their method delivers scans of unparalleled quality.

In addition, the team experimented with their algorithm on another robotic platform, a one-arm industry robot to automatically scan a delicate elephant object at high quality and high fidelity.