Jul 23, 2016 | By Benedict
Scientists in Brazil have used 3D printing to create lifelike busts of centuries-old Roman Catholic saints. After obtaining CT scans of the saints’ preserved skulls and conducting extensive research and analysis, the scientists were able to 3D print the generated models in a plastic-based plaster.
From Lazarus to Jesus Christ, popular biblical figures have a history of coming back from the dead. But while those two household names were brought back by the power of God, two 17th century Peruvian saints are about to experience resurrection of a different kind—through algorithmically informed 3D printing.
This month, scientists in Brazil will present 3D printed busts of St. Rosa of Lima, the patron saint of Peru who died in 1617, and Sister Ana of Los Angeles Monteagudo, a Dominican nun from Peru who died in 1686 and was beatified in 1985. The two saints will become the newest additions to a series of 3D printed holy figures created using CT scans and photogrammetry captures of the saints’ preserved skulls.
To create 3D models of the saints’ skulls, scientists used photogrammetry, a technique which involves taking hundreds of photographs of the skull from different angles. Tomography, an X-ray scanning technique, was also used to get an idea of the internal structure of the skull. To then turn these scanned skulls into lifelike representations, the 3D models of the skulls were “fleshed out” with muscles, tissue, and skin tone determined by an algorithm, which takes into account dental and anthropological analysis and historical research.
“Our aim is to create an individual face from the skull that we believe to be the most compatible with the person when they were alive,” said Paulo Miamoto, a forensic dentist and anthropologist based in Santo. “Everything is designed to take into account the period during which the person lived and to give life to their features as accurately as possible.”
Images: Foco News Agency
When the algorithm-based software has finished generating the facial features of the saint in question, the scientists are left with a digital 3D model of how the saint might have looked when they were alive hundreds of years ago. Then, to show their “resurrected” saints to a wider audience, the scientists use 3D printing to create physical busts of these generated figures. The printing took place at the Renato Archer Center of Information Technology in Sao Paulo, with a plastic-based fine plaster used as a 3D printing material.
“The printing process in rebuilding a face can be slow, taking as long as a day or more to complete, because the impression has several layers,” explained Cicero Moraes, a computer graphics designer based in Sinop. “When the final printed object reaches our hands it is like a sculpture, completely white and blank. From there we have to add the anatomical details, the facial characteristics, the flesh color and tones, and build an appearance that does justice to the holy person.”
The 3D scanning and printing technology being used in Brazil is helping to give the religious community a glimpse into its own rich history. Before these advanced procedures were made possible, Catholics had no real idea what saints of the past might have looked like. Despite the exciting nature of these revelations, however, Miamoto and Moraes are not themselves religious: “We are motivated by the scientific aspects of these studies and interested in the human beings, which is what all saints were, before being canonized,” said Miamoto. Moraes added that his lack of faith has never been a problem when dealing with religious people in the convents and churches he has visited.
The 3D printed busts of St. Rosa and Sister Ana are the latest in a series of saintly 3D prints, joining those of St. Mary Magdalene, a witness of the resurrection of Jesus, and St. Anthony of Padua, a Portuguese Franciscan friar who died in 1231. The scientists found that St. Anthony, though painted and sculpted countless times in the centuries since his death, probably looked quite different to how he is generally depicted. These new discoveries show that, in both religious and historical contexts, 3D technologies can be used to correct misconceptions and bring the past back to life in an accurate, informed manner.
“In the case of St. Anthony, we found his features were more robust than what had been shown for over 800 years,” Moraes said. “We discovered his nose was neither thin nor small and that his lips were large. In the case of St. Rosa, the remaking of her face revealed a pretty woman with soft features and big eyes, different from how the classical paintings show her.”
The 3D printing process in Peru signaled the end of a year-long project for Miamoto and Moraes, who had been collaborating with researchers from the University of St. Martin de Porres in Lima. The first set of 3D printed busts, which also included models of St. Martin de Porres and St. John Macias, were shown to half a million Catholics in Peru at the end of 2015.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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