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Archival 3D-Imagery of Challenging Subjects

Microsol Resources welcomes our latest guest blogger, Peter Fried from the Dept. of Applied Physics, NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Peter contacted us with interest in our ProJet 660 Full color CJP 3D Printer from 3D Systems. This printer was able to bring Peter’s digital captures to life.

If you’d like to learn more about photogrammetry or 3D Printing, please contact

Thank you Peter, David and Drew

Archival 3D-Imagery of Challenging Subjects

Peter Fried, Dept. of Applied Physics, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
David Brown, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University
Drew Harvell, Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University

More and more 3D imaging is being used for archival recording of collections of artistic, historical and natural specimens. This has only become possible through the rapid improvements in scanners, cameras, software and graphics processors that now enable 3D capture of subtle details, shadings and textures.

Many of the specimens in such collections are in storage and unavailable to the public. 3D imaging, with its vivid appearance and viewer interaction, can vastly increase the audience for these “buried treasures.” In addition, 3D imaging also provides archival recording and a valuable tool for research access. Recent articles have described 3D recording projects at the Smithsonian ( and at the Natural History Museum in Berlin (Mallison et al.).

However, making 3D images faithful to the original still has challenges for many specimens.  Fine detail or lack of detail, hidden surfaces, glossy surfaces, and transparent or semi-transparent volumes are a few of the challenge areas.

We have begun to make 3D images of a collection of small and beautiful glass figures that will test the capabilities of 3D imaging. These figures are sculptures of marine invertebrates made over 100 years ago by the father-and-son glassblowers Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka. The collection is at the Corning Glass Museum and at Cornell University ( ) where Professor Drew Harvell is the curator.  The collection was recently featured in an award-winning film, Fragile Legacy (,

Figure 1 – Blaschka-560
Figure 1. – Blaschka – 560

Figures 1-3 show some of the more than 500 glass figures in the collection. They illustrate the gamut of detail and transparency in the collection. We have begun our efforts with the simpler, relatively opaque glass models (e.g. Figure 1). Imaging the beautifully detailed transparent jellyfish (Figure 3) is a challenge for the future.

Figure 2 Blaschka-460
Figure 2. Blaschka-460
Figure 3 Blaschka-216
Figure 3. Blaschka – 216

To image the 2.5-inch squid shown in Figure 1, we are using photogrammetry of DSLR images. The photographs were made by David Brown, the museum photographer at Cornell’s Johnson Museum and producer of the film mentioned earlier. The software is AgiSoft PhotoScan and some finishing touches were added in Blender.  The processing was done on a Dell M4800 with a Quadro 2100 GPU. The PhotoScan software works well and has an excellent user interface that allows separate user controls for each of several processing steps. Autodesk Memento seems promising, but is currently still in beta until summer of 2016.

Positioning the model. The model was placed on a turntable and photographs were made at turntable intervals of 2-10 degrees. This process was repeated at several angles of elevation and for several orientations of the model.. Inter-photo alignment can be done with benchmarks placed next to the figure. However, when the model is placed in different positions on the turntable, benchmarks cannot be used. All the photos were masked both (a) to remove background detail, which would confuse the alignment, and (b) to reduce processing time, which can run up to several hours.

Lighting. The photogrammetry requires uniform lighting, a minimum of shadows that change positions between photos, and a minimum of specular reflections from the model’s glossy surface. The photos were all done in a soft-light tent.  De-glossing the model with spray or powder coatings was impossible due to the sensitivity of materials in the models. Polarization can be used to control reflections but was not necessary in this case. This helped maximize the light on the subject, which was necessary to use small apertures for maximum depth of field.

Detail and hidden surfaces.  We made many photos and numerous processing runs to get the right photos to capture the detail of the squid. The photos must provide (a) all the necessary viewing angles, and also (b) a precise framework for inter-photo alignment.  The final model uses about 200 10MB photos.

Post-processing.  Some details of the transparent sections were not rendered exactly by the photogrammetry. For these we used Blender to smooth out the two glassy tentacles and refine the shape of the suckers.  With such “artistic” intervention, care must be taken to be as faithful to the original as possible.

A 3D image of our first model can be seen at  (rendered in Figure 4).  The results show the capabilities of 3D imaging to capture detail and surface texture in delicate subjects. We look forward to imaging more of the Blaschka collection as well as items in other collections.

Figure 4 - CG Rendering - Blaschka-560
Figure 4. Rendering of the Photogrammetry-Generated Model of Blaschka-560


Mallison, H., Vogel, J. & Belvedere, M. (eds.) 2014. Digital Specimen 2014 – Abstracts of Presentations. Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. http://www.naturkundemuseum-

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Capturing reality: Capture Craft and Microsol Resources fabricate a scale replica of Philadelphia landmark.


“Reality capture” is a term that is gaining a foothold in many more industries these days. The applications of creating a high definition 3D mesh of a real world element are expanding significantly. The Smithsonian recently showcased its work in digitizing parts of their collection on and wowed the industry with examples geared towards research, analysis, and preservation. Optimized for the Web, mobile or 3D printing / fabbing, reality capture is an impressive new tool making art, artifacts, and architecture more accessible.


As a case study and proof of concept for a confidential museum client the Philadelphia start-up named Capture Craft created a high resolution 3D capture of part of the Swan memorial fountain at Logan Square in Philadelphia. The museum is interested in expanding their reach to the public around the world and with the talents of the Capture Craft Company they will be able to do that. By digitally capturing high resolution 3D models of their collections that are on display and also in storage, the museum will be able to peak the curiosity of potential visitors, impress their members and provide access to an expansive virtual collection to researchers around the world.


The turtle at the Swan Memorial Fountain was good example of Capture Craft’s capabilities. Situated at the center of Logan Circle on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia, the fountain by Alexander Stirling Calder and designed with architect Wilson Eyre, memorializes Dr. Wilson Cary Swann, founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society.


02-Turtle photo


Capture Craft’s founder, Craig Barbieri has been working with software maker Autodesk on the software tools and methods to create high definition 3D mesh models. Beginning with high resolution cameras, lenses, and special lighting requirements, the Capture Craft team captured images at multiple elevations, 360° around the sculpted turtle that spouts water toward the 25-50-foot geyser at the fountain’s center. About 100 high resolution photographs are then processed and fed into specialized servers which use Autodesk’s algorithms to reconstruct the sculpture in 3 dimensions, with an accuracy rivaling other known methods. Once the initial 3d model is created, its coordinates are then set to real-world scale and cleaned of any outlying geometry. The result is a 3D mesh model on which you can see an amazing level of 3D detail, including the sculptor’s tool marks.



Note the sculptor’s tool marks in the center of this image.



 Appearing left to right, Photo, Surface model, Mesh model, Textured mesh model


Once complete, Capture Craft reached out to Roger Liucci of Microsol Resources, the preeminent New York 3D-printing Master, to have the model of the turtle 3D printed on their latest machine. Microsol Resources has been in the 3D printing business for almost 10 years, and has a number of different 3D print technologies in their New York office. Working with clients such as Cesar Pelli (NY, CT), Morphosis (NY), SHoP Architects (NY). Microsol Resources was excited to print this high-resolution model in color on their new 3D Systems ProJet 660 3D Printer. Once a size was chosen the machine went to work and the results were fantastic! When not on display to potential new clients the replicated turtle sculpture is showcased in the Capture Craft office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



1/12th scale 3D Print of the Swann Memorial Fountain Turtle sculpture


For more information about the Capture Craft Company, contact Craig Barbieri at


For more information about 3D printing contact Roger Liucci at Microsol Resources (888) 768-7568

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