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Scientific Modeling

During the last decade, we have been working with scientists from around the world on a variety of programs requiring the use of 3-D scan data. Most interesting is our work with vertebrate paleontologists – those who study extinct animals.

The Dinosaurs

For several years Virtual Surfaces Inc. has worked closely with paleontologists at the University of Chicago, The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and National Geographic Magazine. Our goal is to develop and use industrial three-dimensional techniques in the study of fossil and/or biological specimens. Our experience includes working with CT, laser, optical, and CGI scanners. Unlike our Reverse Engineering methods, which require NURBS (none uniform rational B-spline surfaces), a biological entity, such as fossils, may have many non-uniform surface features, and must be defined through a process of point to point polygonalization. Polygonized data, usually as STL (Stereolithography files) can be used for rapid prototyping, tool path generation, dimensional analysis, digital comparisons and graphical visualization and animation. Scan data can be transmitted via the Internet to be studied by scientists around the world.

The Kennewick Man

Recently we had the opportunity to CT scan, edit and rapid prototype the skull and hip bones of the Kennewick Man. The Kennewick Man was discovered in 1996 near the town of Kennewick WA, washing out of the bank of the Columbia River. Radiocarbon dating indicated that he was about 9500 years old. Local Indian tribes claimed that because of his great antiquity they should be given the rights to bury his remains as per their custom. Scientists sued the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to obtain the rights to study such a perfect skeleton of such great age.

After years of court proceedings the scientists were finally allowed to perform  a series of studies on the remains. One of these studies included the high resolution CT scan of the skull and hip. The hip being important because of a stone-age projectile point lodged in the Illium. Varian performed the CT scanning at their Lincolnshire, IL facility; VSI performed the digital editing and digital removal of the projectile point. Harvest Technologies of Benton, TX provided two sets of rapid prototyped bones and projectile point.

The Kennewick Man’s physical dimensions can now be studied with no harm to the original bones.


Scientific Modeling
Triceratops Skull
Skull of a Triceratops created from 3-D scan data during the Smithsonian's restoration project.
Triceratops Skeleton
Smithsonian's all digital Triceratops.
Skull of Kennewick Man.