3D Scanning to Preserve and Share a National Treasure in Korea

The Researchers of KAIST CT (Cultural Technology) Graduate School and the National Museum of Korea digitally reconstructed Seokguram Grotto using 3D scanning 3D Systems software by creating an exact and complete 3D virtual model of the Korean cultural heritage site.

Digitalized Replica of Seokguram Grotto

When the National Museum of Korea asked a team of researchers to digitally reconstruct a national treasure for public enjoyment, they employed 3D scanning and 3D Systems software to create a complete 3D virtual replica.

Seokguram Grotto

Seokguram Grotto is a 1200 year old cave shrine in Gyeongju, South Korea, sitting 750 meters above sea level and overlooking the East Sea (Sea of Japan). It was designated a national treasure of Korea in 1962, and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995. It embodies some of the finest Buddhist sculptures in the world.

Despite the shrine’s tremendous cultural significance, the Korean public is restricted from close access – as are the large number of tourists who visit the region every year. So the National Museum of Korea and a team of researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) resolved to give people a way to easily experience and interact with the shrine despite its seclusion. They came up with a great solution: to display a complete, full-scale, 3D digital replica of Seokguram Grotto in the National Museum. Such a replica would also allow them to preserve the present condition of the shrine if they ever needed to restore it from damage in the future.

But how do you create an exact digital replica of an entire shrine with all its intricate details? This team did it with another great solution – pairing the Konica Minolta Vivid 9i, a state-of-the-art 3D scanner, with one of 3D Systems’ powerful software solutions, Geomagic XOS.

Processes of the Project

Here’s how they did it:

1. Scanning the Shrine
First, the researchers took thousands of 3D images of Seokguram Grotto with the Vivid 9i.

2. Putting It All Together
Next, they brought all of that raw scan data into Geomagic XOS and used its Mesh Buildup Wizard™ to turn the scanned points into watertight mesh models with just a few mouse clicks. This innovative alignment and merging process in XOS significantly cut down on scan data processing time versus alternative products and methods.

3. Final Touches
Finally, after processing the 3D scan data with XOS and getting fantastic 3D mesh models, the research team used Autodesk Maya to add colors and textures to the virtual shrine.

Digitalization process

Mr. Park, the senior researcher of the production team, had this to say about the project: “It was impossible to bring the actual state of Seokguram Grotto into the National Museum of Korea. Instead, we scanned Seokguram Grotto and created a 3D HD movie with it. Visitors will deeply understand how Seokguram Grotto was built by watching the movie. We are very proud of recreating Seokguram Grotto in the center of Seoul. It will be very convenient for local people.” He also added, “XOS was very helpful to handle [the] large volume of scan data in this project. XOS has proved its ability to rapidly create polygon models and NURBS surfaces. I’d like to say thank you to 3D Systems for providing such a powerful and easy-to-use scan data handling tool.”

The digital replica of Seokguram Grotto on display in the National Museum of Korea from Dec. 16, 2008 to Mar. 1, 2009.

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