Preserving Sculptures With 3D Scanning And 3D Printing

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Preserving Sculptures With 3D Scanning And 3D Printing



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This raggedy old sculpture is something that I love having around. I know it looks like a pile of old tires and rusty metal bits, and not so much like a toad, but I still love it.

As you can see, at one point in time it was a fire sculpture. The valves slowly died and I retired the fire system, relegating the fire toad to a charismatic yard ornament. It welcomes me home every time I arrive in my driveway and it serves as a convenient home for random wildlife.

I’ve often thought about the fact that it will collapse before too long, and I should really come up with a way to preserve it. This is where photogrammetry comes in. I don’t have a fancy 3d scanner, but with photogrammetry all you need is a camera.

I found some great tutorials on the Prusa 3D youtube channel that detail how to get the best photogrammetry possible.

As you can see in the video below, all you need to do is capture your subject thoroughly…. thoroughly. I took over a hundred pictures of this sculpture all around it. I then went back and took closer pictures to attempt to capture details. Frankly, I could have taken even more to get a more detailed scan, but due to time constraints and laziness, I decided I was happy with this level of quality.

After you’ve got all your photos in a folder, you load up a free piece of software called Meshroom. This is where the real magic happens. Refer to the video below for more details on what to tweak.

After you’ve pulled your fancy new 3d scan from Meshroom, you’re likely going to need to clean it up a bit. I personally used Meshmixer to delete extra stuff and add a basic base.

As you can see, my results turned out pretty well, considering the unique difficulties presented by this sculpture. I was impressed. Not only was I happy with the scan, the 3d print surprised me as well. I expected to need supports all over the place but the Prusa I3Mk3s was able to print this thing flawlessly without issue. Frankly it printed it so well I’m tempted to redo this whole thing to get a more detailed scan!

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One of the awesome things about photogrammetry is that it also captures the colors and texture of the object. Getting that information exported in a relatively small and usable file size is kind of a complex task that I’ll save for another video, but the capability is available. In theory, you could use these scans as video game assets or view them in VR or AR!

You can see what I mean here. These are un-optimized files, which means that you won’t want to pull these into a game engine, they’d perform horribly. However, they’re fun to look at and do the job of preserving my sculpture just fine.


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I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

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