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The human body: A true work of art

The human body: A true work of art
In 1501, Michelangelo was only 26 years old, but he was already the most famous and best-paid artist in his days. This is when he accepted the challenge of sculpting a large-scale David.

3D scanning the human body down to the finest details

3D scanning the human body down to the finest details

We are now over 7.5 billion people on Earth and, although some individuals are quite similar, no two people are exactly the same. With so many different faces, it’s no surprise that, over the course of evolution, the human brain has become a real Jedi master at recognizing the finest of details that set faces apart. This is likely the reason why we can usually easily distinguish an actual famous actor from a wax reproduction; our brains just figure it out! In order to be convincing, a statue made from a 3D scan needs to be accurate and have a high geometry resolution.

Improving the quality of 3D scans was a goal that incited USIMM to use peel 3d. Specialized in the machining of non-metallic materials, the company constantly deals with artistic projects and wanted to demonstrate the evolution of its CNC capabilities by comparing the results its team obtained from machining the 3D shape of an employee a few years ago to what they obtained today.

Scanning a living person is particularly tricky, according to Ms. Lea Lepage. “The scanners are typically very sensitive to micro movements, including something as subtle as breathing. It is therefore very challenging to scan a person.” To accomplish this feat, the USIMM team required a scanner that could tolerate a certain amount of movement—all while keeping a high level of resolution and accuracy in check. With a resolution of up to 0,5mm and a volumetric accuracy of 0,5mm/m; this is precisely what the peel 3d scanner had to offer.

They took the same employee, put him is a similar pose and proceeded with the scan, the same way they did a few years back. Once the scan completed, USIMM sent the 3D scan data obtained to their 5 axis CNC machine and made a full-size polystyrene reproduction of the employee. The results were incredibly stunning.


Figure 1: Machined 3D scan obtained in 2013 with a Kinect (left) vs 3D scan obtained with a peel 3d scanner (right) 

The scan previously made with a Skanect machine did not compare with the results generated with peel 3d. “There was quite a big difference between the previous and current project,” said Lea. The new statue was much more realistic and more accurately represented reality. This test was very successful and is sure to convince a lot of USIMM’s potential new customers interested in having their own bodies turned into actual statues!

The smart reason to “copy” an existing object with a 3D scanner

The smart reason to “copy” an existing object with a 3D scanner

We often hear: “now that people have 3D scanners, aren’t you afraid they will start copying everything?” First, 3D scanners are not an enabler here; it was possible to copy existing objects long before the venue of this technology; if anything, it only took longer.

There are however cases where you need to work with existing parts, components or assemblies where having a virtual image of your component will save you a lot of time. Think of people modifying existing equipment and changing or improving its use.

Take the example of Ben from EMI Conception, a company specialized in the manufacture of high-end digging equipment for excavators from 1 to 30 tons. They also do all sorts of mechanical projects. Before getting their peel 3d scanner, they would use traditional measuring (a mix of tape measure and caliper) to model different existing components. Things could get creative with the use of cardboard templates and what not but in the end, and with a few iterations, it always worked. Adding 3D scanning into the project was a way for them to get things right the first time with a high level of confidence.

Ben recently reached out to us about a project involving a metal casting for a component used in airplanes. These castings used to be available as bare and would get machined to their final tolerances to reach certain higher tolerances required by the industry and be used as part of the plane cockpit. Unfortunately, in our specific case, the component was discontinued and no longer available; there is also no drawing or existing CAD file for the component either… Luckily, the owner still had a bare casting.


As you can see from the picture, the component has a very organic shape with very few aligned surfaces making it particularly difficult to model using traditional methods. To use Ben’s words, this is where a 3D scanner comes in handy! He started by 3D scanning the raw component, to keep it as a virtual archive, should they ever need to produce additional castings.

The part was then machined to tolerance and scanned again, this time to create a 3D solid in CAD to create drawings of the components, used for machining of future components. This is how the same 3D scanner was used twice on the same part but for 2 completely different uses; now that’s smart!

This is how making a simply copy becomes innovative and takes engineering further. Of course, a scanner good enough to be used on mechanical components could do just as good in a museum to archive artifacts or to capture the shape of a residual limb in a medical clinic.

Going back to Benoit’s project, he also sent me a scan he did of a dirt bike; the scan took about a minute and provides a lot of highly valuable information that would otherwise be very difficult to get. This looks promising for his next project. 😊

Do you have an interesting story or project to share? Contact us, who knows, it might end up on this blog as well!