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NDT.net Issue - 2017-08 - NEWS
NDT.net Issue: 2017-08
Publication: e-Journal of Nondestructive Testing (NDT) ISSN 1435-4934 (NDT.net Journal)

Virtual Excavation of the Rider of Unlingen

Volume Graphics GmbH39, Heidelberg, Germany

The high-end software VGSTUDIO MAX played a major role in the 3D-printing of a replica of a 2,800-year-old bronze figure. The State Office for the Preservation of Monuments Baden-Württemberg (LAD) entrusted Volume Graphics with creating a 3D-printable STL file based on their CT scan (research institute for precious metal, fem, Schwäbisch Gmünd) of the excavated Rider of Unlingen, a bronze figure that dates back to the 8th or 7th century B.C.

The data set was challenging, and not because the bronze statuette was surrounded by soil from the original site and a layer of plaster that was used to stabilize it for the scan - all of this could have been removed quite easily with our surface determination. It was challenging because the solid metal itself produced a lot of artifacts in the data set, most of which we ended up having to remove manually.

This time-consuming process included the heavy use of segmentation tools in VGSTUDIO MAX, such as the Region Grower, Draw Tool, and Polyline 3D in connection with a surface determination based on the previous segmentation results. After a few incremental steps, we achieved a highly precise and detailed surface that we then exported as an STL file. This high-resolution STL file was used by ConceptLASER, Germany, for 3D printing.

Because the classic (non-virtual) excavation would not have been finished in time to provide images for marketing purposes, we also created renderings of the rider, e.g., for flyers and posters promoting upcoming exhibitions.

To achieve a look as close as possible to the rider’s original appearance, we used photographs of different bronze alloys to find matching color and gloss settings (look-up tables and reflection of light) for the renderings.


The combination of perfect material properties and a photo studio-like set of lights resulted in the convincing, photo-realistic image you can now see, e.g., in the flyer.

Please visit the website of the Celtic Museum Heuneburg for further information.

Visit: Volume Graphics GmbH

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