In this months June 2012 Smithsonian Magazine there is a great article involving Reality Capture by Smithsonian curator Nicholas D. Pyenson Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals where you capture an existing object in a digital form such as a 3D mesh or point cloud. The article is “Save the Whale Bones – Laser scans record fossils” on page 84 of this issue and online at How Two Laser Cowboys-Saved The Day “http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/How-Two-Laser-Cowboys-Saved-The-Day.html”. The article details a unique archeological dig in Chile that was a collection of ancient whales located in the desert where a highway was going to be constructed, so time was of the essence to preserve this scientific anomaly of a group of full whale fossils in a land location.
The “Laser Cowboys” Vince Rossi and Adam Metallo of the the Smithsonian 3-D digitization team were sent to the field location to work with Nick to determine a method to preserve the existing scene. The laser cowboys used a Faro Edge laser arm and a Faro Focus3D laser scanner to capture the scene in a detailed and accurate 3D point cloud to preserve the information long after the fossils have been relocated to make way for the impending highway project.
At the end of the project they took photos of the scene and used the free Autodesk 123D Catch to generate a 3D mesh model and then 3D printed a scaled miniature of the model . How great to have a miniature of a large project to show others, or place as an exhibit, or the coolest paperweight on your desk ever.
Having the digital models and 3D prints will allow the sharing of accurate data in digital and physical forma for scientist all over the world to determine what caused this and to preserve this unique scene forever.
Time lapse video of capture of the whales and more on their YouTube page:
Read more on the Laser Cowboys digitizing the massive Smithsonian collection by Cnet Smithsonian turns to 3D to bring collection to the world
They have a Facebook page Smithsonian 3D Digitization
Cheers & happy 3D scanning!