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Image of 3D Scanner

Left Image: Breuckmann triTOS-HE structured light scanner in use, 20° triangulation. Lower point of triangle represents one of a million points typically collected in this 10cm field of view. (Native American copper sheet object, catalog no. 200700.000 National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution). Right Image: Breuckmann triTOS-HE structured light scanner on tripod head, showing projector and camera components, with 10cm sensor bar between.

The recent proliferation of commercial three-dimensional digital scanning devices has made 3D scanning--and virtual and physical replication--a practical reality in the field of heritage preservation. 3D scanning produces a high-precision digital reference document that records condition, provides a virtual model for replication, and makes possible mass distribution of digital data. In addition to research, documentation, and replication, 3D data of artifacts are increasingly being used for museum collections storage and packing designs. The cost and complexity of 3D imaging technologies have made 3D scanning impractical for many heritage institutions in the past, but this is changing, as an increasing number of commercial systems are being tailored and marketed for heritage applications.

One of the most direct benefits of the technology is that no physical contact is made with the object while scanning. Measurements are more accurate, and new, more valid comparisons can be drawn. More importantly perhaps, when replication is desired, common risks from mold making are not incurred. No barrier coating or subsequent cleaning is necessary. It is still difficult to produce a physical replica from this data, but as with other new technologies, advances continue to come quickly.

At this time, MCI has one of the few high-resolution scanning devices that simultaneously records color information. The Breuckmann TriTOS scanner provides excellent spatial data and good color that is assigned to each point in the spatial data.

Scan Pattern of 3D Scanner

Sequential patterns projected by structured light scanner on the surface of a crab-eater seal during scanning. Distortion of linear scan patterns is processed to generate spatial data.

Image of Scanned Copper

Left Image: The left grayscale image shows the 3D data with the color "turned off," which allows examination of surface morphology. Right Image: 3D color image (Native American copper sheet object, catalog no. 200700.000 National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution).

Further Reading

3D Scanning and Replication for Museum and Cultural Heritage Applications.
By Melvin J. Wachowiak and Basiliki Vicky Karas

This paper presents a review of the current state of 3D imaging in the cultural heritage field, methods of physical replication, the different systems used in heritage applications, criteria for choosing a system, and the techniques used for working with the data. Attention is given to identifying those objects that are not likely to be suited for 3D scanning.

Reconstruction of a Nineteenth Century Plaster Piece Mold and Recreation of a Casting.
By Melvin J. Wachowiak, Basiliki Vicky Karas and Robert E. Baltrusch

See How 3D Scanning Ties Into Smithsonian Exhibits