Beckman Institute: Digital Scanning and Beyond
Two weeks ago, our class had the incredible privilege of visiting UIUC’s Beckman Institute for Advanced Science & Technology to take a look at some of their high powered digital scanning devices. I had never been to the facility before and was astounded by the dense variety of research transpiring behind each room within the building, safely guarded by electronic key entry. After making this observation, I was very pleased to find that we would actually be granted entry to some of these areas! We first visited a room where we were able to see a smaller digital scanner at work. It was incredibly interesting to be able to see the different generations of technology and how digital scanning has evolved throughout time. One of the key aspects I’ve learned about making is that digital making is driving product innovation.
As we checked out a much larger digital scanner, I learned that this larger digital scanner had actually been the one used to scan our Alma Mater. This project was pretty incredible and inspired me to think about the creative uses of digital scanning. Because of the meticulous efforts of the Beckman Institute’s Visualization Laboratory, graduates in the years that the Alma Mater was absent were able to take photos in front of it with a 3D model of the Alma Mater in place of the real one! Pretty amazing application of this technology and I’m excited to learn about other interesting uses of it.
Oh Ho Ho It’s Magic! (Geomagic, that is)
Using Geomagic software was a very unique opportunity presented to our class that not many students have the chance to say they worked with. Granted the particular version of the software we used can cost upwards of $5000 (yikes!), it’s also very atypically used by beginning users because harnessing the power of the software to truly render objects correctly requires a decent amount of knowledge and expertise. After some great tutorials from our instructor, we saw that the software was actually very user-friendly and we were able to navigate it with some degree of ease. I say some, because some of us got a bit carried away with some of the sculpting tools and and hole creation features of the software. Put plainly, the file we uploaded went from a racing glove to a slice of swiss cheese attacked by a knife.
Anyhow, the rich aspects of the software that enabled users to powerfully render and modify 3D objects were very impressive. One of the most interesting characteristics I found of the software was its ability to parameterize different geometries of objects. From a mathematical perspective, the process of parameterization can become incredibly complex depending on the different curves and surfaces that are being transformed into mathematical functions. However, the huge benefit of parameterizing the object is that this enables the object to be used in other CAD softwares and easily manipulated due to the fact that the surface can now be described in exact dimensions/geometries. The process was fascinating to look at and I’m interested in investigating more as to what is possible through the parameterization of objects. For now, I will download interesting files like hedgehogs and use tools like the scuplting knife in Geomagic to turn an ordinary animal into something fun.