This week we are very excited to have Dr James Bezjian (Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship) visiting us from the Citadel Military College of South Carolina. He is working with us to 3D scan artefacts in the Bridges Archaeology Collection and is also training students and staff at the University to use the latest equipment. Alison stopped by to watch this amazing process in action and ask James a few questions…
Alison: First, can you tell us a bit about the equipment are you using?
James: We have industrial portable infra-red scanners, designed by Artec 3D studios. One scanner handles medium-sized objects, the other handles smaller objects like tools, pots, pans, and the third scanner can render full-scale rooms, industrial and mechanical items.
Alison: And what’s involved in scanning – how long does it take?
James: First, I take the scanner and align it with the turntable so the scanner can understand what the level plane is and distinguish it from the object. Once the object is recognised I begin scanning, rotating the turntable and using the scanner to get all angles. It generally takes 20 minutes including scanning and processing. It works almost by touch. You have to keep your eye on the screen and watch your scan appearing. I take multiple scans and then the software connects it all like a puzzle.
Alison: How are you using 3D scanning in your work at the Citadel?
James: We teach students how to solve complex problems using innovative methods. 3D scanning was a solution to a complex problem that many of our local arts colleagues, museums and businesses were facing with preservation or recreating techniques. Many of these institutions can’t afford scanners like ours – the equipment I have here costs around £50,000. The Citadel were granted a donation to start an innovation lab, on the premise that we would work with the community.
Alison: What is the most interesting object you’ve scanned?
James: The stone statuette of a seated lady in the Bridges Collection (HC2003.9) https://sketchfab.com/models/a569484986b943d0ac8f4a32d9085bae!
The detail was amazing. I had a real sense of awe about the object. I’d quite like a 3D print of it actually!
Alison: Which have been the most difficult objects to scan? Why?
James: Things that don’t have distinguishable edges, textures or patterns. So for my work in the States that might be shiny metal objects like nuts or bolts. Here in the Bridges Collection we’ve had problems with some of the bronze objects that have rust on them.
Alison: What are the most exciting uses of 3D scanning and where do you think it’s heading next?
James: A group of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) needed a wrench to fix something. They were told they wouldn’t get it for several months so NASA scanned the wrench and sent the file to space so it could be 3D printed and they were able to fix the problem.
They are also starting to 3D print homes in China which they can then 3D print in concrete. It’s very time effective and requires less labour. This could be a great solution for affordable homes…
Alison: Thanks so much James! I can see what a quick and efficient process this is and we’re delighted with the 3D models you’re producing of the Bridges Collection. We’re just sorry you’re only here for a week! Are you sure you want to get back to the States for Christmas??
And check out this piece on the project’s collaboration with Dr. James Bezjian, and how 3D scanning technologies is being used to combat the destruction of antiquities –