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SLAM Use 3D Scanning to Create Three-dimensional Data of Dolphins, Turtles and Sharks to Study Marine Life

Aug 05, 2019

Recently, Swansea University's student-led marine biology project used Artec 3D's 3D scanner to create full-body 3D scans of dolphins, sharks and large turtles. This collects animal speed and activity level data, providing detailed information on migration patterns and the effects of ocean temperature on their behavior.

3D scanned blue shark fin

The Swansea University Animal Experiment Laboratory (SLAM) uses state-of-the-art marking technology and leading data visualization techniques to study the life of marine animals. This is done to learn more about the life of marine animals deep in the ocean, even if they are not in sight.


Led by doctoral student Lloyd Hopkins, SLAM has been developing innovative ways to attach these labels to a variety of marine animals in a non-invasive, easy-to-use manner. If the labels are too loose, they will be ineffective or even fall off; too tight, causing pain to the animal.


In order to develop an animal's fitting attachment, it is important to first obtain an accurate measurement of its unique shape. The project uses the most popular 3D scanner, Artec Eva, and combines it with Artec Studio 12 scanning and post-processing software. These scanners are capable of capturing wet, shiny, and moving objects, which is difficult for most 3D scanners.


Hopkins said: "We are very confident that the use of 3D scanning technology will be widely adopted as the standard for such research in the future." 

Full scan of dolphins

The scan data was then used in animal construction design using Autodesk Meshmixer and Fusion 360 CAD software. Using Autocad Fusion 360, Hopkins designed and built the label around the scan and reconstructed a fin from the collected measurements. He then uses Meshmixer to make changes to the mesh, such as smoothing the scan of the suture and correcting areas that are difficult to scan, such as the mouth of a dolphin.


The information collected by 3D scanning is more reliable and accurate than records obtained by conventional methods.Although research on the project is still underway, 3D scans of marine animals, especially dolphins 3D data, have caught the attention of Spanish trainers and veterinarians.

3D scanned turtle