Jul 4, 2017 | By Tess

3D Scans, an initiative based in Auckland, New Zealand that is seeking to preserve New Zealand’s history through digital scanning and modeling, is undertaking its next project, and it’s a big one. Using 3D scanning technology, the team is digitally preserving what could very well be the oldest merchant ship still in existence, the Edwin Fox.

Built in 1853 in India, the Edwin Fox has sailed all over the world: used as a troop ship by the British government in the Crimean War, transporting cargo for years, and even used to carry convicts from the United Kingdom to Freemantle, Australia. Now, more than a century after its construction, the giant ship stands on display in Picton, New Zealand at the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum.

Of course, while the ship has lasted in its physical form this long, there is a growing chance that it will not be preserved for much longer, especially as Picton is an earthquake-prone region. With the 3D Scans project, the hope is to preserve a digital incarnation of the ship in case physical preservation does not last.

“Physical preservation is obviously the first prize, if you can do that,” said Hennie van der Merwe from 3D Scans. “However, the Fox is in an earthquake-prone area. It is under threat from natural disaster.”

By 3D scanning the entire ship in great detail, the hope is to give new life to the Edwin Fox and allow even more people to learn about its unique history and travels. For van der Merwe, the project is also technically motivating, as scanning the entire ship is a long and challenging process.

As he explained: “We picked the Fox for its history, but also from a technical point of view it's a very challenging project to complete a scan. We wanted to get as much detail as possible. While we can obtain high accuracy and resolution with scans, it becomes problematic on an object of this size. Especially with something with as many features as the Fox—it’s not like a building where the walls are featureless.”

To digitally capture the ship, the 3D Scans team used eight laser scanners and a number of high-end cameras. These were used to capture detailed photographs of the ship’s exterior and interior which then have to be stitched together to form a 3D mode. The scanning process, which took a total of two days to complete last December, resulted in nearly 8,000 photographs that required processing.

As van der Merwe explains, the team started off by scanning the ship’s exterior, and then moved onto the interior. Currently, the team has completed the processing and modeling of the Edwin Fox’s exterior (a long process, according to van der Merwe), and the team is now working on finalizing the interior scan.

“It takes time to generate a decent model,” he said. “Look at something simple, like an office chair. To make a decent 3D model of that, you're looking at about an hour and a half to two hours. It doesn't sound like much, but with a million objects, it becomes a problem.”

Still, despite the challenges, the team is confident they will have finished the 3D model of the ship by the end of this year. In addition to the digital model, they also hope to introduce a virtual reality model which people could virtually explore and walk through—connecting them even more to the past through technology.

(Images: 3D Scans)

“What we can achieve with 3D modelling is something that looks better than the real one, insofar as you will be able to see more detail on this, when you zoom in, than you could with your naked eye. Having said that, you can never capture aura,” added van der Merwe.

So, while it may be naive to think that the real Edwin Fox ship will last another hundred years, at least we will have the digital model to hold onto and explore. For 3D Scans, the project is playing an important part in preserving a significant part of New Zealand’s history.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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