rapid prototyping saints faces



Finding 17th Century Saints with 3D Printing


Brazilian scientists and researchers have made a revolutionary use for rapid prototyping and 3D printing technologies that would help the world know the people of the past better. Through 3D printing, they recreated busts of Roman Catholic saints from the 17th century. After extensive analysis and research, 3D models of the busts were made based on CT scans, which were obtained from the preserved skulls of the saints. The busts were made out of a plastic based, plaster like material that is often used for rapid prototyping. The results seem almost eerily lifelike!


While charismatic biblical personalities like Jesus Christ or Lazarus were brought back to life through divine intervention, the 17th century saints from Peru in this case undergo a totally different kind of revival. Scientists revived the bust structures of these Peruvian saints with the help of rapid prototyping which was algorithmically informed.


The Brazilian scientists are going to present the 3D printed structures up to the bust of two Peruvian saints this month. One of them is a Dominican nun from Peru Sister Ana from Los Angeles Monteagudo, who passed away in 1686, later to be beautified in 1985. The other is the patron saint of Peru St. Rosa of Lima who died in 1617. The busts made through rapid prototyping are going to be the latest to join a 3D printed holy figurine series, which used photogrammetry captures and CT scans of the preserved skulls of the saints.


In order to create the 3D printed models of the skulls, the scientists took hundreds of photos of each skull from many different angles. This technique, called photogrammetry was used in addition to tomography- which is a technique based on an X-ray scanning. The latter helped get a better idea of the skulls’ internal structure. The next part was the most crucial- turning these skulls into actual 3D representations. For this purpose, an algorithm determined skin tone, tissue and muscles in order to ‘flesh out’ the models of the skull. Also taken into account was historical data and anthropological analysis. The 3D printing process was conducted at Sao Paulo, at Renato Archer Center of Information Technology. The printing material was a fine plastic based plaster.


According to Santo based anthropologist and forensic dentist Paulo Miamoto, the aim of the team was to recreate individual faces from the skulls that they believed were the most compatible with the people when they were still alive. Their features were brought back to life with the best possible accuracy, taking the 17th century demographic and anthropologic features into account. After the facial features of the saints were generated by the algorithm software, a 3D digital model was obtained which signified how they might have looked when they lived back in the 17th century. In order to display these revived saints to a wide audience, the researchers employed rapid prototyping and created life like physical busts from the generated models.


Sinop based graphics designer Cicero Moraes explains that the process of rapid prototyping for reconstructing facial features can be rather slow, taking up to an entire day or more as the impression is done layer by layer. The finished product is completely blank and white like a sculpture to which the researchers had to add facial characteristics, flesh tones and colour, anatomical details and overall, an appearance that did justice to a holy saint.


Before the 3D printing, scanning and rapid prototyping technologies were implemented, the Brazilian Catholics had very little idea what the saints of the past looked like. Hence, these technologies serve the purpose of educating the masses about their own rich religious history.


The 3D busts of Sister Ana and St. Rosa happen to be the latest additions in a 3D printed bust series. There have been two other similar busts prepared to bring to life St. Anthony of Padua and St. Mary Magdalene. The former was a friar of Portuguese Franciscan origin, who passed away in 1231. The latter happened to be a witness of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though St. Anthony’s likeness has been sculpted and painted many times in history since his demise, those illustrations looked considerably different from what he actually might have looked like.


Completion of the two saints’ bust models signified the end of Moraes and Miamoto’s project continuing one year, in collaboration with a research team from University of St. Martin de Porres, Lima. Near the end of 2015, an exhibition was arranged where around fifty thousand Catholics viewed the first set of 3D printed bust models. According to these discoveries, 3D printing technologies can be referred to in order to combat misconceptions, bring back a little blast from the past, that too in a most informed and accurate manner.





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