20.01.2019 - 06:03
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Virtual Reality Laboratory

The Department of Human Evolution provides a complete range of facilities for 3D image acquisition, processing and reproduction:

  • two transportable, high-resolution, industrial computed tomography (CT) scanners for nondestructive 3D imaging – a custom made diondo d3 for large objects such as fossil cranial or post-cranial skeletal remains, as well as a Skyscan 1173 desktop micro-CT scanner for small objects such as teeth,
  • several portable 3D surface scanners including a Breuckmann, Next Engine
  • a MicroScribe Portable Measurement System to capture 3D coordinate data of physical objects, 
  • a virtual reality laboratory with 3D workstations for data analysis, 
  • an Objet Eden 350 3D printer to replicate three-dimensional models.
  • a Next Engine scanner
  • a Artec Spider scanner
  • and a Nanofocus confocal microscope

Industrial Computed Tomography

The Department of Human Evolution at the MPI-EVA has the unique advantage of being able to offer two transportable CT scanners available for use on the spot and in museums around the world:

Diondo d3 high-resolution micro-CT system:

  • resolution up to 5 µm/voxel, or matrix sizes of up to 5700 px
  • max. acceleration voltage of 225 kV
  • max. object size: 500mm in diameter, 800mm in height

Skyscan 1173 portable high-resolution micro-CT system:

  • resolution up to 5 µm/voxel, or matrix sizes of up to 4200 px
  • max. acceleration voltage of 130 kV
  • max. object size: 140mm in diameter, 200mm in height

In addition to regular use in the Department of Human Evolution, these machines facilitate inclusion of fossil collections that have not previously been accessible due to museum regulations or governmental prohibitions. Both CT systems can be shipped within Europe or overseas to collect non-destructive data on fossil or recent material, leading to excellent quality virtual reconstructions of objects that represent an accurate and permanent record of the sample for analysis or archiving.

The diondo d3 scanner may be transported and operated inside a custom designed lead-shielded container
which houses a one of a kind transportable scanning laboratory © Volker Steger/ stegerphoto.com
complete with climate control and high-end workstations to provide safe and high-quality non-destructive data acquisition anywhere in the world.
The Skyscan 1173 mobile CT scanning system is highly transportable.
It can be operated within a museum or fossil collection and allows for digital image acquisition of objects up the size of smaller skulls.
A human metatarsal inside the sample chamber.

Surface Scanners

The department has a number of surface scanners for making high resolution 3D models of objects. These include an Artec Spider structured light surface scanner, a Breuckmann triTOS-HE structured light scanner, and a NextEngine laser scanner.  We also make extensive use of Structure from Motion software (Agisoft Photoscan) for modeling objects (fossils and artifacts) and for modeling archaeological sites.  Additionally, for three-dimensional models of very small objects or usually of surfaces, we have a portable Nanofocus confocal microscope.  If you have project that falls within our research foci and requires use of this equipment, we are open to collaborations.

Virtual Reality Laboratory

The department has a state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) laboratory for computer visualization, manipulation, and analysis of 3D data from CT scans, laser scans, or obtained with a total station. This laboratory will be used for the virtual reconstruction of fragmentary or deformed fossil specimens, collection of anatomical landmarks from 3D data, and to virtually walk-through archaeological sites. Commercially available and custom-designed software is employed in our Virtual Paleoanthropology Laboratory on high-end computer workstations that facilitate efficient data processing and a variety of analytical tools. Using our VR wall, we can also visualize 3D scenes of digital fossil material or archeological sites to better grasp the three-dimensional relationships.

3D imaging software renders a virtual model of a tooth that has been CT scanned.
Virtual reconstruction and landmark analysis of the Turkana Boy skull (KNM-WT 15000).

3D Printer

The department has a 3D printer (Objet Eden 350) to produce natural size or scaled 3D replicas of virtually reconstructed objects. The printer supports a wide range of different materials of various elasticity and colors. It uses PolyJet technology to reach very high resolutions of 42µm in the XY plane and 16µm in Z direction. After printing, the replicas can be painted to give them a more realistic look.

Eden Object 350 3-D printer.
The printer’s polymer hardening UV lights illuminate the object during printing.
Objects of various sizes, materials and colors can be printed. Left: the Homo habilis skull KNM-ER 1813 from Koobi Fora, Kenya, printed in two different sizes and painted after printing. Center: the Broken Hill skull (Kabwe 1) as well as two enlarged versions of digitally created casts of inner ear labyrinths printed in a white material. Right: two enlarged teeth with the dentine printed in a hard, translucent material and the enamel printed separately using an elastic, transparent material.