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How Artec Leo helped preserve a set of treasured deer antlers in lifelike 3D

Challenge: To 3D scan an irreplaceable pair of deer antlers in order to preserve them, while opening up the possibilities for online, VR/AR usage, and 3D printing scale and full-sized versions.

Solution: Artec Leo, Artec Studio

Result: After only 2 minutes of setting up the antlers for scanning, they were captured by Artec Leo in 5 minutes, using Leo’s HD Mode for higher performance. Processing the Leo scans into a 3D model required a total of 56 minutes from start to finish. From there, the model was exported in OBJ format for Sketchfab, and STL for 3D printing.

Why Artec 3D? The Artec Leo made it fast and simple to scan the antlers from a variety of angles without any cables or laptop getting in the way. Leo’s true-to-life texture camera easily captured the organic colors of the antlers, delivering a level of realism to the final 3D model without the need for any additional 3D modeling or color enhancements.

Deer antlers

Derek Paulson, TT, Artec 3D Gold Certified Technician, scanning the antlers with Artec Leo. Image courtesy of My Engineering Ltd.

Canadian bowhunter Logan Johnson was staring out over the terrain and into the distance when he suddenly stopped breathing.

There, less than half a football field away, was the mightiest whitetail deer he had ever seen, one he had patiently stalked for hundreds of hours over the previous three years.

Yet every time before, this magnificent creature had eluded him, sprinting off into the brush or the depths of the forest. But not today.

Moving inch by inch, to avoid any sound, Johnson, a firefighter by profession, drew back on his 70lb bow, aiming a razor-headed arrow at the deer. Then he let go. The arrow arced out and met its mark.

The massive deer bolted straight towards him before turning at the last moment, running past Johnson and disappearing onto the next property. It took Johnson nearly 24 hours to gain permission to the land and finally track down the deer, which had gone almost a mile before valiantly giving up the escape.

After the hunt

When he was officially measured, the rugged old deer clocked in at a breathtaking 210 gross inches, with a 24 4/8 inch spread, a king among its kind, one that few hunters will ever have the honor of seeing up close in their lifetimes.

After years of hunting in harsh northern weather, for Johnson, this was the victory of a lifetime, one he will never forget.

Deer antlers

Screenshot showing the final 3D model of the antlers. Image courtesy of My Engineering Ltd.

To honor the memory of the deer, Johnson did what any fellow bowhunter in his boots would do: search for a taxidermist, to mount and preserve this remarkable creature for years to follow. But a previous experience made him wary of taking this step just yet.

Years earlier, after successfully taking down another deer, Johnson sent the animal to a taxidermist, with disastrous results. The taxidermist somehow “lost” the deer, then summarily went out of business.

For any one of Canada’s more than one million hunters, such a scenario would be a nightmare come true, one that Johnson vowed to do everything in his power to prevent from ever recurring.

Turning to 3D scanning for help

Not wanting to take any chances like this again, after researching the various possibilities online, Johnson turned to 3D scanning to digitally archive his deer’s extraordinary antlers.

The more he learned about 3D digital preservation, the more he understood that it would be the best option, to create a dimensionally precise color 3D replica of the antlers, not just for the duration of the taxidermy work, but also to preserve the antlers in the face of any other dangers they might face in the future: fire, theft, flood, damage, etc.

Johnson immediately reached out to his local 3D scanning experts, Artec 3D Gold-certified Partner My Engineering Ltd., of Alberta, Canada. They arranged for him to visit the office for the scanning.

Capturing the antlers with Artec Leo

Setting up the antlers took only two minutes, followed by five minutes of scanning with the Artec Leo, a professional handheld 3D scanner that delivers submillimeter-accurate color 3D scans with a high FPS capture rate and no cables to get in the way as you maneuver around whatever you’re scanning.

Leo’s rear touchscreen display lets you see your scans in real time and confirm that you have 100% coverage of the object you’re scanning.

Deer antlers

Artec Studio screenshot: ready 3D model from the Leo scans of the antlers & skull. Image courtesy of My Engineering Ltd.

For the antlers, Leo’s HD Mode was employed to ensure the highest level of performance of the scanner, yet using just the 1/8 HD density setting, since this would more than suffice for capturing all the intricacies of the antlers’ organic geometries.

Following the scanning, the scans were transferred to Artec Studio software, where, over the next 56 minutes, they were processed and transformed into a color 3D model ready for 3D printing and other applications.

An OBJ model was exported, for uploading to Sketchfab and other uses, while an STL model was used for the 3D print, with the medium of choice being PLA.

Minutes to scan, a lifetime of possibilities

Johnson commented on the scanning process itself: “It was important for me that no sprays or stickers be used on the antlers, which can be a requirement for many 3D scanners. But Leo did perfectly fine without either. And the scanning was done so fast. Now, when I look at the 3D model of the antlers on the screen, I’m blown away by how even the tiniest of details are there.”

Before deciding on 3D scanning, Johnson considered another option for the antlers: to have them duplicated via manual molding, to create a lifelike plastic reproduction. But such a process is not only costly (Johnson was quoted $2400 vs. $330 for the Leo scanning), it also still leaves open the chance for the plastic replica to be destroyed or stolen.

Deer antlers

Desktop 3D-printed scale model of the antlers & skull. Image courtesy of My Engineering Ltd.

One of the first applications that My Engineering offered to Johnson was 3D printing a miniature copy of the antlers and skull. He jumped at the idea. The results speak for themselves.

Heritage preservation and more

President of My Engineering, Tim Gaida, P.Eng, said, “Beyond the initial desktop scale model of the antlers, many other possibilities for the 3D model of the antlers, including online display, such as VR/AR use, not to mention the idea of using 3D scanning for scoring antlers.”

He continued, “Hunters traditionally score antlers using a measuring tape, to quantify the size and proportions of the antlers. But with 3D scanning, it’s a whole magnitude more precise, because I can tell you in a split second the exact volumetric dimensions of the antlers from top to bottom. Every tine, crown, and spread.”

Deer antlers

Artec Studio X-ray mode view of the antlers & skull 3D model. Image courtesy of My Engineering Ltd.

Gaida also explained that in the future, it’s an easy thing to rescan the antlers and compare the resulting 3D model with the original 3D model of the antlers, to check for any damage or other changes that took place in the interim.

As Gaida said, “This is what makes Artec Leo and Artec Studio software ideal for museums and private collections. By scanning an object, maybe it’s a painting or a sculpture, you can understand its present condition and then track this over time with scans that usually take just a minute or two each.”

Deer antlers

3D-printed desktop scale model of the antlers & skull, fresh from the printer. Image courtesy of My Engineering Ltd.

He continued, “It’s also 100% safe, since there’s no need to touch the object, use any spray, or markers, and once you have the scans, you can easily use them for an online exhibit, VR, AR, or maybe additive manufacturing, to create 3D printed highly realistic replicas of various sizes.”

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