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APL licenses 3-D scanning technology

Press release from the issuing company

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) of Laurel, Md., has licensed a unique scanning technology capable of creating a color-accurate three-dimensional model and image of a small object with resolutions smaller than 1/12th the size of a grain of salt. These models and images can be used for forensic analysis, reverse engineering and quality control.

The exclusive licensing agreement allows the Maryland-based Trilumen LLC, to commercialize and initially market the 3-D scanning technology, a combination of cameras, digital projectors and telecentric lenses.  The technology licensed to Trilumen was originally developed as part of "Digital Hammurabi," a collaboration between APL and the departments of Near Eastern Studies and Computer Graphics at The Johns Hopkins University. "Our goal was to find a technology that could digitize the world's oldest form of writing, cuneiform tablets," explains Daniel Hahn, of APL's Air and Missile Defense Department.

"As the tablets are 3-D in nature, composed of wedges imprinted into clay tables with writing typically on all sides, photography and other forms of 2-D digitization were inadequate. What initially began as a search for a suitable existing technology turned into a technology development effort as no commercial scanners were able to achieve the desired scan fidelity," says Hahn, who developed the technology with APL staff members Kevin Baldwin and Donald Duncan.

The 3-D Scanning System acquires the shape, color and reflectance of items and renders these characteristics into complete 3-D objects. The system translates scanned objects into digital data that can be saved, copied, shared and manipulated with suitable rendering software. With the resulting image, users can have unlimited access to the most rare, fragile, expensive and protected objects. They can specify any view direction and lighting condition to best analyze and appreciate the object.

In 2008, Trilumen received a TechStart grant from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) to explore technologies that could be commercialized through a startup company, and Trilumen founder Gerard Eldering says the APL scanner provided a compelling business opportunity. He sees initial users in the forensics and historic preservation markets, and says the company will also explore the medical, quality control and prototyping industries.

"This technology has been generating interest since its inception, so it was especially exciting to see it incorporated into a new company," says Heather Curran, a technology manager in APL's Office of Technology Transfer. "In the past, it was featured at a TEDCO technology showcase and was assessed by local college students as part of an entrepreneurial program. With this transfer, the technology will be able to benefit the Maryland economy, the Lab and its sponsors."