Quality Magazine

Geomagic Creates 3-D Data for Stonehenge Projects

November 14, 2011
Geomagic used 3-D imaging software to create a 3-D digital model of the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge in England. Dubbed the English Heritage project, it captures the ancient monument and its surrounding landscape in unprecedented detail to aid further studies and understanding.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC-Geomagic, a provider of 3-D software for creating and inspecting digital models of physical objects, has announced that its 3-D imaging and reverse engineering software, Geomagic Studio, has been used to create the highest resolution, most dimensionally accurate 3-D digital model ever of the world-famous, 5,000-year-old English monument, Stonehenge.

The project has been undertaken by surveying and 3-D laser scanning specialists Greenhatch Group Ltd. on behalf of English Heritage, who are the custodians and conservators of Stonehenge, as well as many other historical monuments, buildings and ancient sites across England.

Together with Atkins Mapping and Archaeo-Environment Ltd., Greenhatch used short- and long-range laser scanners from Z+F UK and Leica Geosystems, along with other survey equipment, to digitally capture all the visible faces of the standing and fallen stones, as well as the tops and faces of the lintels, to a resolution of +/- 0.5 millimeters. Surveys of all the stone faces to this level of accuracy have never been achieved before. The surrounding landscape was also captured as part of the overall project to create the most accurate 3-D digital model ever of the monument.



Precise 3-D Digital Models

The data captured by the scanners was read into Geomagic Studio software, where it was processed to create highly accurate 3-D digital polygon mesh models of the individual stones and the surrounding landscape. The individual stones could then be placed digitally in their correct positions to create a highly accurate 3-D virtual model of the whole monument, which in turn could be placed accurately within the virtual model of its real-world context.

The digital models are being used for a number of purposes. They provide a precise base line to enable English Heritage to monitor the physical condition of the monument, which is subjected to daily weathering. They are also a valuable resource to anyone wishing to produce reconstruction models, drawings or images for public understanding and interpretation and to create animation sequences. This will allow experts from English Heritage to fly virtually through and over the monument from different perspectives in order to aid their studies of the stones-and for their work on the proposed new visitor centre at Stonehenge.

"Many of the raw 3-D point cloud files from the scans of the stones comprised up to 50 million points, or 1.5 gigabytes of data, each,” said Andrew Dodson, director, Greenhatch Group. “Without the advanced point cloud processing capabilities of Geomagic Studio we would not have been able to convert them into the accurate 3-D digital polygon models that this project demanded."

"As well as helping people to understand how Stonehenge was built and how it has been changed at certain times in the past, the 3-D virtual models that have been produced with Geomagic Studio hold out the promise of enabling people to find out the secrets that lie within the eroded surfaces of these ancient stones,” Dodson continued. “They will therefore add greatly to the English Heritage store of knowledge of Stonehenge."

An online version of the animation is available here.