3D Scanning in Art: 6 Stunning Art Exhibits Made with 3D Scanners

by Drew Shark on Sep 19, 2018

3D scanning continues to be utilized in a gamut of artistic projects, from the whimsically abstract to the dazzlingly life-like. Whether bringing history to vivid new life, or as a tool further in the background of the creation process, 3D scanning provides shortcuts and simplifies processes to deliver accurate execution of top-level creative ideas. Read on to learn more about 3D scanning in art.

Our blog post, 3D Scanning in Art (read here), focused on LIDAR-captured movie magic and surreal digital artwork; this time, we’re taking it old school and showcasing more artists concentrating on creating physical displays.


ARMORS, a public art show by Icelandic artist, Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, used 3D scanning and printing to create life-sized statues of armour. The show ran for the summer of 2018 in Fort Tryon Park in New York.

Originally inspired by a museum trip, the artwork features a recreated suit of armour from the Met (The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York City), juxtaposed against a more vulnerable human form in the same pose created from bandage molds of the artist’s son.

3D scanning the armour was completed courtesy of the Met’s Advanced Imaging Department. The team found scanning for the purpose of solving an artistic problem a bit different than their usual practice, where the goal is conservation. Ideally, each piece of armour would be scanned separately and pieced back together digitally, but due to the artist nature of the assignment, they actually kept everything on the mannequin.

3D printing the armour model was only an intermediary step in the creation process. Next, a wax model of the 3D print was created, over which molten metal aluminum could be cast. Surprisingly, the many iterations of the form didn’t come with a high loss of detail, making these statues a necessity to check out.

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Glass Mutations

Tobias Klein, an artist as well as an architect, developed two works combining glass blowing with 3D scanning and printing during his time as Artist in Residence at the Pilchuck Glass School in 2017. His interest was in the relationship between glass creation methods and 3D printing.

Although it is possible to 3D print directly in glass, Klein used traditional methods for glass crafting, as it was important to him that the final artworks retained qualities of the different tool paths and workflows. His first work, Augmented Fauna, featured traditionally-executed glass casting of the pelvic bone of a deer, next to one that utilized 3D scanning.

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The final result of the project was two identical sculptures in which the pelvic bone is augmented with ‘new geometry’ made from substrate tendrils. In one sculpture, the real bone played its part, and the augmentation was casted glass from a 3D print; in the other, the bone shape was cast in glass, and the augmentation was 3D printed. Scans of the bone were essential to digitally sculpting the augmentation before printing.

His next work (pictured below) was Glass Mutations, an artwork based on cell mitosis. This project also involved scanning glass work to digitally augment with new geometry, later 3D printed and incorporated physically into the sculpture. But where Augmented Fauna strikes the viewer with it’s high precision and beauty in parallelism, Glass Mutations is more chaotic and visually stimulating.

Read about Klein’s work in his paper “Augmented Fauna and Glass Mutations: A Dialogue Between Material and Technique in Glassblowing and 3D Printing.“

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Solve Sundsbo and Anna Cleveland

To visually represent scanning’s inauguration into the fashion world, last winter Europac 3D teamed up with Solve Sundsbo to combine scanning and traditional fashion photography to capture the famous model Anna Cleveland (pictured above).

It doesn’t surprise that an industry like fashion, where precise measurements matter, would eventually get the 3D scanning ball rolling. Great things can result from digitizing parts of the fashion industry — like increased environmental sustainability and superior configurability of custom clothing creation.

Online clothing stores are starting to reap dividends of investing in 3D scanning tech, either by using 3D avatars, or handing customers concrete evidence to make sizing decisions. Most returns from online shopping are due to inaccurate size ordering, and big savings can accrue to companies who figure out ways to minimize those returns. Physical stores are acquiring 3D body scanners as well, though it’s still niche tech to see in a shop.

Fashion brands like Xandra Jane are pioneering new, truly disruptive concepts, like offering a digital pattern library using 3D processes that liberates high fashion designs to the discretion of individual citizen’s sewing skills.

Anna Cleveland Vogue Italia, mixing traditional photography and 3d scanning

Ceramics artist John Balistreri

John Balistreri digitally scans his handmade tea bowls and prints them again in ceramic material. For Balistreri, art is a way to investigate what everyday objects mean in a higher sense, and the tea bowl is an iconic representation of the relationship between man and nature – perfect for symbolically bridging handcrafted and digital artistry.

As a ceramics professor at BGSU (Bowling Green State University), Balistreri is uniquely positioned to offer insights regarding the effect of 3D printing on the aesthetic understanding of objects. To quote him in full,

‘I do not believe that this innovation will suddenly allow someone who has never worked with clay to suddenly create a “good” tea bowl, but I do wonder what a master potter, steeped in the history and the making of the teabowl form would be able to create using this technology. The tea bowls we study in museums and books are an amalgamation of complex forces, some of which are possessed by the maker and some of which are inherent in the material. The art of these objects concerns the aesthetic balance of these forces. Great tea bowls seem to record and at the same time somehow transcend these forces, all within the basic parameters of the utility of the object.’

The creative process involved here is that of traditional clay sculpting, copied exactly through 3D scanning and printed in ceramic material. Both tea bowls are then glazed and fired for side-by-side display; both treated as original objects, despite one being a copy of the other.

For Belistreri it’s a reminder that 3D printing can be an act of preserving digital information, and that the goal of preservation, whether through physical clay or digital files, is a two way street working both ways.

3d scanning in art
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As We Are

Artist Matthew Mohr uses 3D scanning in a big way – in a way specifically designed to make you (yes you! If you happen to be walking through the Columbus, Ohio convention center) uncomfortable. His sculpture, installed last year, projects your face onto a 14-foot high screen if you dare to step behind and allow the photo booth installed with 32 digital cameras to take a round of face snaps. Don’t worry, you can take as many shots as you like until you get one you’re happy with – but seeing even the ‘perfect’ selfie projected over 3,000 custom designed LED displays for every stranger passing by might still make you squirm. The ‘sculpture’ part comes from the display panels being wrapped 360-degrees around a head-shaped skeleton.

Intended to provide ‘amusement and evoke larger discussions around the phenomena of social media, diversity, and the power dynamic of public art,’ it took more than one company to bring Mohr’s concept to life. The project pulled together engineering and fabrication firms with 3D scanning and photogrammetry technology, and the whole affair was treated to diversity research and branding.

With a lag time of around 3 minutes between scanning and super-sized display, you have time to chicken out of there before viewing the consequences!

3d scanning in art
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Damani Adadevoh

We’ve been excited to see what artist Damani Adadevoh has been able to accomplish with bevel, the Matter and Form smartphone 3D scanning accessory, like this unique way of flouting facial recognition software with a custom mask designed with the help of 3D scanning and printing. Damani used his bevel to create scan data of his face which could then inform the design of a mask custom fit to the geometry of his face. According to Damani, ‘The idea was to draw from my African heritage while engaging with the cultural aesthetic of afrofuturism. The intended utility of this concept mask is to disrupt facial recognition and detection software.’

Damani Adadevoh is a 3D digital designer and curator based in New Jersey. In 2013, with his co-founder Shawn Harris, Damani launched The Raritan Gallery, a digital arts platform and channel showcasing the top contemporary visual art from around the world, across all mediums. With an Instagram account boasting over 35K followers, and drawing an average of 200,000 digital impressions each week, The Raritan Gallery serves it’s audience an eclectic mix of new media visual art, making it a leading source for creative inspiration, and a sort of visual poetry club where visual minds meet and coalesce.

In his own creative practice, Damani oscillates between visual and industrial design, inspired by his love for things like 80s/90s body horror, Japanese minimalism, and new technologies like 3D printing and reality capture. He was recently named the first 3D printing artist-in-residence at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, and is a part of their Mana BSMT New Media Program.

3d scanning in art
Check out more from Damani and The Raritan Gallery.

From thought-provoking public installations to minute investigations into how forms of physical and digital crafting work together, 3D scanning in art can bring about a bounty of creative options and possibilities. In the future as 3D scanning gets even more accessible, more and more projects will benefit from this amazing, versatile tool.