Machine Design

Laser scanning for artists?

NVision Inc.

Sculptor Somers Randolph in New Mexico not only sells his artwork, he also laser scans it and saves it as computer models. These can then be used to reproduce the original works at any size on a 3D printer. NVision in Coppell, Tex., provides the laser-scanning service.

“I often spend two to three months creating a shape in marble or other stone,” Randolph says. “But for 30 years, once I made and sold them, they were gone forever. Although technically I still own the forms of all the sculptures I’ve sold, in the past it was never practical to store or reproduce them.”

Recently though, he discovered laser scanning, which can create computer models of physical shapes regardless of the complexity.

“I chose NVision because it can handle any size sculpture I send them, and they provide fast, affordable turnaround,” says Randolph.

Laser scanning works by projecting a line of laser light onto the surfaces to be measured, while a camera continuously triangulates the changing distance and profile of the laser line as it sweeps along. The position and orientation of the scanning head is also continuously monitored by a highly accurate device as data is captured. Instead of collecting points one by one, the scanner picks up tens of thousands of points every second. This means that digitizing even the most-complicated part can often be accomplished in an hour or two.

“I look forward to having all my best sculptures scanned,” says Randolph. “Computer models make it easy to reproduce shapes either in plastic with a 3D printer or as a bronze casting. I feel good knowing these shapes will be preserved for the future.”

© 2012 Penton Media, Inc.

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