Bacchus under Structured Light

/ February 28, 2018

The Bacchus Conservation Project started in January with the 3-D scan of the statue and the various other fragments that once were attached to it. We worked with Scansite 3D, choosing structured light (or white light) over laser scanning because of the precision it offers.

Structured light scanners are used in the aerospace and automobile industries because they offer the highest resolution scans available. While laser scanners get between 60,000 and maybe 100,000 points of information per scan, structured light gathers 5,000,000 points per scan. Imagine, we took over 90 scans of the statue of Bacchus! (We’ll let you do the math.)

The first phase of the project is the complete documentation of the sculpture’s shape and surface, because Bacchus will never be the same again. (The same applies to the ancient head and other fragments.) Now that we’ve conducted the 3-D scan, the data obtained can be used in myriad ways. It will allow us to create a 3-D digital Bacchus that will be used interactively in the exhibition planned at the completion of the conservation project. We can also re-create the fragments in a variety of materials, and this will be helpful when assembling pieces: we can figure out how these re-created fragments fit together before we handle the fragile marble ones.

We can re-create the fragments in a variety of materials and figure out how they fit together before we handle the fragile marble ones.

We’re also happy that the scan data can be uploaded to structural engineering software that will give us crucial information about the structural integrity of the statue. We’ve looked inside the sculpture with gamma rays, but we don’t know how the sculpture will “react” to being modified. Knowing where the weak points or the pressure points are will be useful, and understanding how much weight the legs can support when we re-create Bacchus will help us figure out which material can be used for the replicas of the ancient torso and head. And we could even 3-D print mini Bacchus sculptures to sell at the store!

Caroline Rocheleau
Caroline Rocheleau is director of research and curator of ancient art at the NCMA.

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