3D Insights

3D Imaging and Printing Church Sculpture

Case Study

Category: Historical Preservation

St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church of Rockville, Maryland is proud of the landmark statue that is a defining architectural feature of the church.  The beautiful life-sized sculpture stands inside an open two-story rectangular archway in front of the church and depicts two nuns facing each other.  Church officials wanted to create a scale model of this sculpture to preserve it and use it as a meaningful symbol to the parish community.  3D Herndon was asked to make a 3D scan of the sculpture and then 3D print copies that could be used as gifts of recognition and awards for church activities.   3D Herndon scanned the sculpture on-site, created a 3D digital model and then 3D printed a first run of dozens of copies to be used as awards for deserving parishioners.

Defining the Challenge

The life-sized bronze sculpture is permanently installed at the church and therefore the 3D scanning had to be done on-site.  This brought into play certain challenges including lighting, weather and physical access for any digital image capture done outside a studio.  The sculpture itself also presented some interesting challenges.  In particular, the arrangement of the two figures facing each other with arms outstretched forming a tight space between them meant that there were surfaces inside the circle that had to be photographed but the ideal angles for capturing images of one figure were obstructed by the other figure.  Since the three figures were facing each other some of the most important features were the least accessible to photograph.  3D Herndon used a combination of video and still cameras to capture thousands of images of the sculpture from all angles.    

Creating the 3D Model

To create the 3D model we selected hundreds of the best images covering all angles of the sculpture.  These images were stitched together using RealityCapture software to create the 3D mesh representation of the sculpture.  Our digital artists then cleaned the mesh using a combination of software tools including ZBrush and MeshMixer to produce the final model ready for 3D printing.  This involved digital sculpting of some elements that were either too fine or too awkward to capture at the appropriate scale in the scanning process, such as fingers, facial features and elements of clothing that were on the inside of the circle.  The 3D scanning and digital sculpting resulted in a beautiful reproduction of the sculpture that is now preserved and can be used to produce copies of any scale and in any material or manufacturing process. 

Results

3D Hendon was commissioned to 3D print the first 25 copies of the sculpture for the church.  For this we used a pearl white filament material to capture the angelic qualities of the figurines in the sculpture. The prints are approximately 7 inches tall.  Each of these prints will be attached to a base and will be used as gifts, mementos and awards. 

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