Celebrating 10 Years of 3D Scanning Breakthroughs

While Cyberware's rapid 3D scanners seem advanced to most people, the technology's origins go back to 1983, when Lloyd Addleman wanted to scan people's heads to produce portrait sculpture. At the time he started the project, he had 23 years experience in cryptographic communications and countermeasures systems under his belt.

He didn't let his high-tech background slow him down, though. Instead of using a laser to project a line of light, for example, he shone light from a halogen bulb through a narrow slit between two razor blades. And when it came time to scan a person's head, the person sat on a motor-driven potter's wheel.

This early scanner was used to create special effects for the movie Star Trek IV; all the members of the Starship Enterprise's bridge crew took their turns spinning on the potter's wheel. This technology seems primitive by Cyberware's current standards, but it was state-of-the art 3D scanning 10 years ago and achieved 1.5mm resolutions.

"We had no idea what we were embarking on when we started Cyberware," says David Addleman, Lloyd and Pat's son. "It was my father's desire and dream that got the whole thing started." David designed the software for the scanner and became the company's president. His brother Stephen, a chemist, signed on as vice president.

A lot has happened at Cyberware since then. The company has spent those years educating managers in diverse markets about the many benefits of utilizing Cyberware's scanning technology.

"We weren't prepared for the vast assignment of informing the world on how this technology can be used," says David Addleman. "Our scanners cross many geographical and application boundaries."

3D scanners are roughly similar to the scanners commonly used with PCs that capture 2D details of flat objects, such as photographs. Cyberware's 3D scanners expand horizons as users in many fields realize that potential for working with computer models of real-world objects.

Cyberware's latest scanners capture the color as well as the shape of 3D objects. Today's scanners also achieve resolutions finer than 0.5mm, with much higher resolutions under development.

Such innovations have kept Cyberware at the forefront of 3D scanning technology and kept the company growing. "We expect 1993 sales to be twice what they were in 1992, which will realize only 1 percent of the potential for the young segment of the high-tech market," notes David.

A wide variety of applications are fueling this growth. For instance, engineers involved in computer-aided design use Cyberware scanners to "read" the curves of natural objects. The engineers can then incorporate the sculpted surfaces into CAD/CAM designs quickly and easily.

Physicians use Cyberware scanners to capture the shape of the human body more easily, for use in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery. Surgeons can scan a patient's existing features and change them on the computer image to make sure the patient understands the intended results.

Cyberware scanners also empower the creators of animation and special effects in movies. Both Industrial Light & Magic and Walt Disney Imagineering use Cyberware equipment. Cyberware scanners have played a role in 16 movies including Jurassic Park, Death Becomes Her, Batman Returns and Terminator 2.

Polygon Reduction

Polygons are the most widely used form of model representation in computer graphics today, in part because graphics workstations can render polygons rapidly. Modeling software can efficiently manipulate complex models composed of polygons. However, the original creation of these polygon models is still a difficult task that often consumes a tremendous amount of time.

Cyberware rapid 3D scanners can be of great help in creating 3D models, but until recently, these models have contained far more polygons than most applications needed to represent the original 3D object. A new software program provides an easy solution: It greatly reduces the number of polygons in a scanned model.

When an object is digitized by a Cyberware 3D scanner, a dense mesh of surface measurements is made. The surface of a model may have a point defined every 0.5 mm (0.02") both horizontally and vertically. While many features of the model may require this dense mesh of measurements and the corresponding high resolution, large areas of the model that are smooth can probably be defined by far fewer measurements. Perhaps 100 times fewer.

The scanned points are usually connected into a mesh of triangle-shaped polygons, with each measurement becoming a vertex shared by up to six polygons. Because the mesh might have several million polygons, workstation drawing performance while rendering models is limited by how many polygons the workstation can project, light and fill per second. Memory and disk storage can also impose limitation.

The new polygon reduction software, Cymage, makes large models easier to work with by automatically reducing the number of polygons. Using a process called decimate, the software eliminates polygons only where their absence will not greatly affect the model's accuracy. The local geometry and topology of the model's surface is used to determine whether an individual vertex may be removed. When a vertex is removed, the software fills the resulting hole with larger polygons.

Cymage never creates new vertices; the vertices of the new model are a subset of the original vertices. This approach preserves the model's original structure, so that users can always map auxiliary data from the original model onto the decimated model. The auxiliary data includes surface normals (which indicate the model's 3D orientation at each point) and color texture data.

Preserving the ability to use the color texture data is especially important because the large polygons might be filled with high-resolution texture. The ability to overlay the color texture on the decimated model further enhances the model's realism, while allowing even greater reductions in the number of polygons.

Reductions of up to 90 percent with only slight loss of detail are common. Software controls permit accurate control of the reduction process. Parameters that control the properties of the resulting mesh include percent reduction, preserving feature edges, size distribution of the polygons, and the number of iterations to make over the entire surface.

The process takes only a few minutes. You can immediately view the results of the reduction to determine if the parameters need to be altered to suit your needs.

Cymage accepts Cyberware image files and generates several popular modeling formats. The output consists of a list of vertices, polygons, surface normals and texture-map coordinates. Direct interface to products from SoftImage, ElectroGIG, and Wavefront are provided.

Cymage is now included with the standard Echo and Plexus software products. Current users will receive the new software when they request a software upgrade. The program's user interface employs an attractive Motif control panel and display. Cymage runs only on Silicon Graphics 4d workstations.

References:

Decimate of Triangle Meshes, William J. Schroeder
Performance Driven Facial Animation, Lance Williams
Simplification of Objects Rendered by Polygonal Approximation, M.J. DeHaemer & Michael J. Zyda

Cyberware Defines the Cutting Edge of 3D Scanner Technology

The Cyberware R&D division's experienced team of engineers works non-stop at creating new laser- and video-based technology. Here is a partial list of the ways in which their accomplishments have been put to work.

Introduced the ability of scanner users to view complex real-world objects such as the human head or clay models created by industrial artists. Users get a lifelike visualization, which makes the object's geometry easier to understand and reduces or eliminates the need to build physical models of the image.

Following on the heels of the successful Terminator 2, Cyberware's technology played a key role in creating many of the stunning effects for Jurassic Park, Death Becomes Her and Batman Returns. In the movie Terminator 2, Cyberware's rapid 3D color scanner was used to scan the heads of two of the movie's characters, Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick, as well as a bust of Arnold Swarzenegger and a robot.

Cyberware gave podiatrists the technology to optically scan the bottom, sides and heel of a patient's foot. This technique captures the foot's shape much faster and more accurately than conventional methods.

In less than 30 seconds, using Cyberware's motion platform, physicians considering reconstructive surgery can perform a scan on a patient. The rapid 3D color scanner allows the patient to remain stationary, while the platform moves.

A revolutionary new, high precision scanner is being tested. This new scanner produces detailed images of tiny objects and provides a resolution of 50 microns. Potential subjects include buttons, coins, insects, fingerprints and teeth.

With Cyberware's full body scanner under development, anthropologists, animators, artists and sculptors will soon have the ability to create dramatic, highly detailed full-body images in just 17 seconds.

Getting Ahead in the Dinosaur Market

When Kreysler & Associates takes advantage of Cyberware's rapid color 3D scanner, the earth shakes with the tread of long-extinct dinosaurs if you use your imagination just a little. The Northern California-based model-making company recently used Cyberware equipment to create life-size dinosaurs for a monstrously large exhibit at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kreysler & Associates start with a physical model that measures anywhere from a few inches to a couple of feet high. A Cyberware scanner captures the shape of the physical model to create a computer model, which is then cut into thin slices automatically by Cyberware software. Kreysler uses the software to expand the size of the slices and cuts them out on a motorized slicer of the company's own design. The half-inch-thick slices of foam or some other easily worked material are stacked together to make the final model.

You'll find Kreysler's colossal models in museums and amusement parks worldwide. The company realizes that when clients want a project to look real, they mean real even when the results are 10 times bigger than life.

Company president William Kreysler knows how hard it is to try to sculpt a massive figure by hand. "With Cyberware, we are able to duplicate a model's features much more accurately than by traditional manual methods," he says. "By taking advantage of Cyberware's equipment, we can now secure jobs that we otherwise could not have competed for."

Using the company's own 4020PS or a scanner at Cyberware, Kreysler's technicians scan their small models at 15,000 three-dimensional points per second. The result: resolutions as fine as 0.5mm. To create the dinosaur exhibit, Kreysler scanned small models of the Albertosaur, Talarurus, Erythrosuchus and Hadrosaur. A few thousand slices later, the long-extinct creatures once again stand upon the earth. One of the dinosaurs towers nearly 25 feet in the air.

The exhibit makes two big impressions: Museum visitors are impressed by the considerable size of the creatures, and museum scientists by the Cyberware technology that helps bring the past back to life.

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