Capturing Die Viktoria

By on July 30th, 2014 in learning

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This is the true story of how a massive 19th century German sculpture made its way into our 3D printers. 

While you might be content to download previously made designs for printing on your personal 3D printer or designing your own using a 3D modeling tool, we like to scan 3D our models occasionally.

While not the best scanning solution, we often use Autodesk’s 123D Catch app. Why? Simply because it’s always in our pockets when we’re out and about and run into a scan-worthy scene. The 123D Catch app makes you take a series of images of a subject from different angles, which are uploaded to Autodesk Galactic for conversion into a rough 3D model. With some tweaks, you can usually end up with a pretty decent 3D model. 

Our story begins while visiting the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) in Berlin, which, by the way, is an excellent museum worth visiting if you’re nearby. 

Our eyes are now tuned to instantly detect 3D-scannable objects and they were fully engaged when we encountered a massive sculpture in the museum’s lobby. The sculpture shown above, is Die Viktoria aus dem Kuppleraum (The Victoria from the Kuppleraum) by Fritz Schaber, who produced it in 1880. 

Could it be scanned? It seemed so. Would the museum guards object, as often happens in such situations? Would passers-by think we were acting strange taking dozens and dozens of images of an old sculpture? 

No such issues occurred. We carefully traversed 360 degrees around the Viktoria, taking an awful lot of images, each one carefully framed and focused. We were concerned that we could not image the top of the sculpture, as it is far taller than any human. We’re not certain, but the Viktoria appeared to be over 4m high at the wingtips. 

After uploading and processing by Autodesk, the resulting model was spectacular. Trimming, filling in holes and smoothing out the very few bad parts was straightforward. Even the poorly-scanned top turned out not too badly. Now we had the model, but it was quite complex and we wondered if it could successfully print on most personal 3D printers. 

The complexity caused us to first try 3D printing it on a Connex 260 in the Lab, selecting Stratasys’ Vero White material. The results were very good – although the pure white doesn’t show much of the detail. But could this be attempted on a personal 3D printer? There was only one way to find out. 

The challenge here was the ridiculous number of overhangs. After some discussion, it was decided the best approach was to use Autodesk’s MeshMixer supports, which are minimal yet effective – and usually very easy to remove.

The result is shown here. The Viktoria printed incredibly well on a Replicator 2. You can see the tube-like MeshMixer supports gently holding up all the overhangs very well. Notice how little material is used for these supports, compared to the massive support chunks often generated by other slicers. 

After pulling off the supports with some pliers, we ended up with this. The Viktoria showing very good detail. 

Is that the end? Certainly not. We printed a number of Viktorias – and one we even bronzed with the technique we described earlier. The tiny 100 micron layers simply disappear under the multiple layers of paint and there is no way to determine it’s actually a 3D print. 

The best part of creating a 3D model in this way? Viktorias for everyone!

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!