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DDI Press Release - For Immediate Release - June 2005
Re-creating Historical Artifacts:
First Digital Copy of the Liberty Bell Allows for Exact Reproduction
The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pa. is one of the most recognized symbols of American freedom and an integral part of our national cultural heritage. Now, lasers and advanced technology allow Direct Dimensions, Inc. to digitally image the famous bell in 3D and provide the blueprint for the Normandy Liberty Bell and other reproductions. Created as a commemoration for the 60th anniversary of the United States’ landing at Normandy during World War II, the Normandy Liberty Bell was conceived in coordination with the Normandie Memoire, an association of the Normandy Regional Politic Council in France.
Maryland-based Direct Dimensions, Inc. (www.directdimensions.com) is the first company in the world to use computer technology to make a digital copy of the Liberty Bell. Last year on February 17, 2004 under tight security, the company used specialized scanning cameras and laser technology to digitally capture the contour and shape of the Liberty Bell, including the famous crack. This digital copy was then used as the dimensional basis for the casting of the Normandy Liberty Bell, a “perfect” replica of the Philadelphia Liberty Bell except without age defects or the famous crack.
The Normandy Liberty Bell was then presented to the world during a dedication ceremony on June 6th, 2004, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, in Normandy, France. It was heard publicly for the first time during this ceremony as it was rung by a representative of Philadelphia 12 times for I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-CE and 7 times for L-I-B-E-R-T-Y just as Bernard Samuel, mayor of Philadelphia did on June 6, 1944 - the morning of the D-Day Landing on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. The Normandy Liberty Bell had been installed in the Hall of the Regional Council in Caen, France until now that it is coming to America to be showcased at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia very near its older brother.
“Our advanced 3-D imaging technology allows us to document objects down to the last intricate detail. The 3-D digital model contains more information than a photograph by showing the precise dimensions of an object,” explains Michael Raphael, president, Direct Dimensions. “We can view complex objects such as the Liberty Bell from different angles on the computer screen and recreate it down to the last dent on the surface.”
The goal is to create a real bell in bronze that precisely duplicates the workmanship and sound structure of Pass and Stow, the original bell founder from Boston. “The Normandy Liberty Bell is a sounding memorial from the French to the American soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom,” says Paul Bergamo, of the Cornille-Havard Bell Foundry. “It is also a way to invite Americans to visit Normandy, and the earth of freedom.” Bergamo notes that the June 6th anniversary will likely be the last major remembrance event that includes living WWII veterans.
Here’s how the scanning process works: Direct Dimensions measures in three-dimensional space – x, y, and z – using advanced 3-D scanning systems. The process uses a mechanical “arm” guided over the object with a laser scanner attached to the end to collect 3-D data without contact. “The scanner is like the “barcode” scanners we see at the grocery store,” notes Raphael. Putting data together like a virtual puzzle, engineers create an exact digital model. What makes this extremely visual technology so remarkable is its ability to pick up fine details, such as sculpted lines, engraved names, even barely visible marks so that the “copy” is an exact replica—something that could never be accomplished with conventional measurement methods. As data is collected, the subject becomes highly visible on screen and can be manipulated and studied in remarkable detail.
This 21st century technology is also being used to save other historic structures, including one of the most architecturally significant buildings in the United States, the Monumental Church in Richmond, Va., designed by Robert Mills, the first native-born American to train as an architect. (Of note, in later years Mills designed the Washington Monument.)
This endeavor is critical because the marble monument is decaying rapidly due to pollution. Within a decade, historians fear, the original monument will disintegrate. With computer graphics, however, technicians can “restore” missing or damaged areas of the building on the computer screen. The resulting model can be used to renovate the building down to the last chisel mark. The project is part of a larger renovation project through the Historic Richmond Foundation to renovate the Monumental Church.
“It’s common for marble statues to disintegrate over time, a process called sugaring,” says Raphael. “By capturing the precise specifications of this priceless monument, we can recreate it in its entirety.” While photographs and video can document the monument to some degree, only this digital technology allows for exact reproduction of every angle – down to elements that are 20 percent of the size of single strand of human hair.
Although its roots are in the industrial aerospace and defense sector, Direct Dimensions has worked with many historical projects. It was the first firm to 3D scan the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., a project implemented soon after 9/11. “In the unlikely event that these precious monuments of our history are destroyed, we can recreate them,” adds Raphael. The company has also scanned the original Wright Brothers propellers, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, and a decaying historic military site known at Ft. Pike near New Orleans. Additionally the company is developing this re-creation technology to digitally fabricate cosmetically accurate medical prosthetics for patients with facial anomalies.