The company I work for, Haven Metrology, acquired an industrial X-Ray & CT scanner in February 2020. This system’s capabilities fell into my purview of 3D scanning, rendering, manipulation, and measurement. We knew it was a great tool but weren’t really sure how to demonstrate its true capabilities. How can we show, with awe and wonder, the ability to see inside of something without taking it apart?
When the pandemic hit we were very grateful and nervous about the timing of our purchase—CT scanners are expensive! If we had waited another month we most likely would not have bought it. However, we were then faced with a significant economic downturn, businesses closing, and many of our contacts being laid off. We needed to sell this service to make payments.
My daughter’s school was canceled due to the pandemic, which gave me the opportunity to spend more time with her than normal. She has a fascination with bugs and the outdoors, which made the idea pop into my head. What if we demonstrated the capabilities of our new equipment while putting together a free resource for educational purposes? Thus was born our Virtual Zoo.
We crowd-sourced all specimens from our clients and contacts. When upload size permits, all mesh files include internal geometries of the specimens. Our website shows images of these renders including bone structures, organs, and even the digestion of other bugs.
The difficulty with CT scanning is that you need to find the perfect amount of energy to penetrate through the object you’re scanning. If you use too much, you won’t be able to see the object. If you use too little, the image quality will be terrible. Bugs are very low density—comparable to air and the foam that we use to hold the bugs in place. This complexity made raw scan file sizes in the realm of 30GB, and required separation of the bugs from the foam and air.
What’s next? We’re not sure. Thanks to our Virtual Zoo and the exposure it has given us, Sketchfab’s hosting of it, and several other demonstrations, we can hardly maintain our current workload and are in the process of acquiring a second X-Ray & CT Scanner. We’ve been contacted by several agencies and museums for collaboration and partnerships.