TECH MODULE: 4.1 3D Models

In 3D computer graphics, 3D modeling is the process of developing a mathematical representation of any three-dimensional surface of object via specialized software. The product is called a 3D model.

3D documentation is an affordable, practical and effective mechanism for long term documentation of tangible cultural heritage and 3D printing. Moreover, it allows for an ubiquitous access to objects usually not or not always easily available to the public, including views from different angles.
3D models can be used 
- to investigate: e.g. in comparing artefacts from different sources;
- to reconstruct: e.g. in scanning fragments and creating 3D models to recreate destroyed artefacts;
- to replicate: e.g. for preservation of originals that are too fragile to move; but also for making replicas commercially available;
- to interpret: e.g. 3D models can help to understand the past of an object or place;
- to share: e.g. to pool 3D resources for common models, to compare 3D tools etc. [all samples taken from 3D-COFORM]

Browsing 3D artefacts from the Victoria & Albert Museum: Fraunhofer IGD presents a new 3D-COFORM demonstrator that brings 3D Cultural Heritage online for everybody using the x3dom technology. Use your cursor to move and zoom the 3D models!
Watch the 3D turtle video that was created during the eCult Summer Stage in Maribor. Or watch our eCult Ambassador Kaja's 3D presentation, an introduction to the art of 3D modelling. Another use case was recently reported in the German newspaper Die Zeit about the Fraunhofer CultLab3 3D scanning Lab and its potential use for natural history museums. It was developed by Martin RItz who also presented it at our eCult Stakeholders event in Hamburg.

 When should you think of using 3D modelling? The answer to this question is not straightforward as it depends on the usage of the 3D models that you plan (see above). Maybe you have a doubt what 1D and 2D is? Have a look at the diagrams, then you can immediately see what the different dimensions mean: [Source:
If you have already your collection digitised in 2D (i.e. digital images), you may want to find out how to use the 2D images to create 3D models. If you do not yet have anything digitised, you may want to skip any 2D images and go directly to 3D. You can have a look at different 3D tools.
If you want to use 3D models for investigation or reconstruction purpose, you will need high definition models which very accurately capture the properties of the object. If you want 3D models for documentation or sharing purpose, lower resolution images may be sufficient (see, for example, 123D catch, the free tool that was used for the turtle video).

Step 1 is always: develop a 3D strategy, identifying WHY you want 3D models, and then investigate which tool is the best option. Step 2 is: Can I afford it? You may want to prioritise the objects to scan to stay within a given budget. Step 3: If you want the 3D models for investigation purpose, make sure that the ultimate format is compatible/interoperable with most other 3D formats. Answers to this can be given by the tech provider you choose as there are many different formats available.

Most links and examples given here stem from the 3D-COFORM project. If you want to know what the project results can do for you, have a look at this (nice and instructive) video. You can check out our tech sheet of 3D-COFORM's "Community Presenter" and contact the indicated contact person for further information.