This blog post was supposed to be about building 3D printers (we promise, we’ll get to that post soon!).  However, it seems among those makers who are building 3D printers or just want to try one out at Proto BuildBar or one of our library makerspaces in town, there is one common problem – what to print?  We have a small group that has been building printers over the last few months, and kept running into this exact problem.  One common way to create new things to print is to learn how to CAD and create your own parts from scratch (remember our Borg Cube post?).  However, this can be an intimidating place to start when you’re already trying to learn about 3D printing in general.

3D scanners are another way to create new 3D models that you can print.  We contacted Spark Place, and found out they have a handheld 3-D scanner available for use, the Sense 3D.

Seriously, have you been to Spark Place yet?

With a scanner readily available, we just had to figure out what we wanted to scan and print.  Being that our Make It Dayton team is a tad more engineer-y and a tad less art-y, we wanted to scan something that would be far outside our normal abilities in CAD.  We were inspired by the Scan the World project, that has scanned more that 10,000 landmarks, works of art and other culturally significant items, making them readily available to educators and hobbyists alike.  What better artwork for us to scan than the iconic busts of Orville and Wilbur Wright at Carillon Historical Park?

Typically, Spark Place doesn’t let their 3D scanner leave the facility; but they also recognized that 1) it would be a great thing to have the busts of the Wrights available for anyone to print and 2) the busts at the park are bronze on marble pedestals, and so somewhat inconvenient to move.


We realized that the building housing the 1905 Wright B Flyer and the busts of the most famous brothers in flight was rather dark, due to preservation needs.  This is a problem for the Sense 3D, which relies not only detecting the reflected infrared signal it sends to the object (which gets the bulk shape) but also on a visible wavelength webcam to track the motion of the scanner and capture the photographic textures of the part being scanned.  Without adequate lighting, the scanner has a hard time tracking the part and can get “lost” mid-scan. This called for that most essential of maker tools: collaboration.

So why does a dark room necessitate collaboration?  As you can see from the photo below, it took 2 people to scan the busts, one to hold the scanner and the other to carry the laptop due to the short USB cable on the Sense 3D.  A third person was needed to hold the flashlight to light up any dark areas.  Matt, Josh and Emily set out to the park, and went to work.

For reference, the guy on the right is 6 ft 5 in tall. These busts are BIG!

We thought Josh should try scanning first, since he was the tallest and these busts are seriously huge. After his first few scans went awry, Matt took over. He seemed to have the golden touch. According to him, “Playing video games has gotten me used to trying and failing repeatedly, so I’ve gotten a lot more patient for this kind of thing”. Anyone who wants to get hold of a scanner, or use the one at Spark Place, some good advice is: hold it vertically, start high, and move at about half the speed you think should be okay.

Literally all we said to Matt for at least 2 hours

While at the park, we also remembered the newly installed bust of Charlie Taylor, the machinist who built the engine that made the first powered flight, well, powered.  Read more about Charlie Taylor and his critical contributions to the development of flight here.

Pride of mechanics and machinists everywhere

After we finished, we returned the scanner to Spark Place, and brought the files home, intending to use the multiple scans to clean up the final CAD file using Autodesk MeshMixer, which is freely available to hobbyists. Luckily, Matt’s scans were good enough that it was unnecessary. And so, thanks to the collaboration of Spark Place, Make It Dayton, and Carillon Historical Park, we’re pleased to present the STL files of the Wright Brothers and Charlie Taylor.




Interestingly, Charlie Taylor was the most difficult to post-process; the bust at Carillon Park is curved along the back, rather than the full-shoulder busts of the Wrights. To fix this, we added a cylinder beneath him before attaching the base.

Matt also had the honor of attempting the first print of these, and his glow-in-the-dark results are below. Please note, if you do go to print these, the scans are full-size. Matt’s version is at 10% scale, and so is about 2 inches tall. Good luck, and be sure to share your results with us!

Now Wilbur glows in the dark!

We’d be remiss if we didn’t take the time to thank both Spark Place and Carillon Park for letting us do this, and make the files available to everyone. Thank you!

Want to learn more about the original art pieces?

Seth M. Velsey (1903-1967) was the artist who created the busts of Orville and Wilbur Wright, which were cast at the Yellow Springs Foundry by Amos Mazzolini in 1949.

The bust of Charlie Taylor was created by Dayton artist Virginia Krause Hess and was a gift to Carillon Historical Park in honor of Lee and Betsy Whitney.


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