I am beginning to think about the next new horizon with which to use our 3D scanning/printing station. The bird models for the Connecticut Bird Hall are getting close to being completed and I will shift my focus to the North American Mammal diorama hall. Collin and I looked closely at each diorama to note where we might improve them. The mammal taxidermy in many of these dioramas need repair and recoloring, but there will be some need for creation of new leaves, installing new snow, and coloring groundcover and epiphytes.
Additionally, in the Desert diorama, there are dried specimens of scorpions and centipedes that periodically disappear as a result of living populations of carpet beetles inside the dioramas. Therefore, I would like to create 3D models of some of these invertebrate specimens. The sizes of the specimens pose a problem. We are looking into whether our scans are good enough or whether our printers are precise enough to pick up minute detail like legs and antennae. Also, the scanner doesn’t like dark, shiny surfaces (mostly what we have to scan) and the scans tend to go haywire.
To see if it is possible to scan and print small bodies with small appendages, we have to experiment with testing removable surface materials.
We had to get specimens of less importance on which to practice. My colleague, Maishe Dickman is an avid insect collector with a special interest in giant Titan Beetles from the neotropics. The smaller specimens are not as important to Maishe, so he agreed to bring in several of the smaller ones for us to work on. He had them in the freezer, so they had to be thawed, pinned and dried.
Just the drying alone takes several days. In the meantime, Nicole Palffy-Muhoray, representing the Entomology Department, told me that we could use specimens from the Entomology study collection so long as we can wash off the surfacing materials we apply. I asked her how to wash a beetle and she brought over an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner! I was floored that this is how specimens are cleaned in the Entomology collection.
We picked out several beetles, scorpions, and centipedes from the study collection and began to experiment. I wondered how dusting might work. Collin sanded several sticks of chalk to dust and I have whiting that I use in mache, which also turns out to be chalk dust! I have confectioners sugar, which I have used in the past on my silicone castings and Kremer dry white pigment. I went online because I figure others have run into this problem and must have found a solution. The solution I found is to adjust the settings of the scanner and to use an opaque, matte “developer” aerosol called Spotcheck. Spotcheck is very expensive, so we will continue our experiments…
It took about five minutes to realize that dusting won’t work because the surfaces of the bugs are too smooth for the dust to grab on to. Gum Arabic, a water-soluble tree sap, was suggested at an art supply house as a reversible medium in which to add the dusting powders to create a paintable surface. This basically creates watercolor pigment and can be built up over several layers to coat the insects. Nicole went to Michael’s craft store and picked up some reversible children’s poster paints and a spray can of chalk dust as additional materials to experiment with.
We will try scanning these three test subjects to see if the scans work and if the surfacing material can be easily removed. More to come soon.