How to use PaleoView3D


Methods of 3D Data Acquisition

How to search for specimens

What can you do with the images and models:

            What can you do with the 2D images?

            How can you view the models in 3D?

            Which file formats do we provide and what programs will open them?

What species and specimen information is provided by PaleoView3D?

What do the technical specifications mean?

Other resources offered by PaleoView 3D


PaleoView3D is a web site that provides 3D surface models; these models are more than just images since they can be used to gather quantitative data. High-resolution laser scanning is used to produce virtual models of fossils from the late Paleocene and early Eocene - a time period that witnessed significant global warming. At this point the majority of specimens are mammals from the earliest Eocene (Wa-0), however, as this web site continues to develop, it will be expanded both temporally and systematically.

Methods of 3D Data Acquisition:

Fossils were scanned with a Laser Design Inc. Surveyor Model 810 3D laser digitizing system with a (RPS-120) laser sensor. Individual scans were imported into reverse-engineering program Raindrop Geomagic Studio 7.0, where the files are merged and edited. For more information see Laser Scanning link (under construction).

How to search for specimens:

Systematic group (search or browse by Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)

Temporal Interval (search or browse by Epoch, Land Mammal Age, NALMA Subage, Biochron)

Geographic Location (State, Basin, Locality)

Specimen (specific element)

Use Search this site to enter specific specimen number (under construction)

What web viewers can do with the data:

What can you do with the 2D images?

For users who are not interested in 3D models, two 2D options are available:

PNG files are the static images associated with each specimens (1-5 views are available depending on specimens). These files can be viewed, printed, and are downloadable (e.g., for use in Abode Photoshop and PowerPoint).

TIFF files of static images (1-5 views depending on specimens) can be imported into 2D measurement programs (e.g., NIH ImageJ).

How can I view the models in 3D?

The PaleoView3D website is designed so that the user has several options in which to view a model. If you currently have a program/viewer that will open one of the seven formats available on the site, simply download that model in the appropriate format (e.g., download the DXF file to use in AutoCad) and open within the program. For a list of the file types supported on this site see Which 3D file formats we provide and what programs will open them?

If you do not have a viewer installed on your machine, download the ModelPress Reader(~7MB). The ModelPress Reader is a freeware program developed by the Informative Graphics Corp. To download the program, click on the Download ModelPress Reader link found on any individual specimen page, beside the 3DF file. This will automatically prompt you to download the viewer. Save the file to your hard drive and execute to install ModelPress Reader. This program will open 3DF, STL, and 3DS file formats and can be used to achieve 3D model rotation, magnification, and basic measurements (linear distances, arcs, and circumstances) with point and click features (see figure below). File download time with a cable modem is within a few seconds and under a minute for a typical dial-up connection.

What file formats do you provide, and what programs will open them?

Currently, we provide seven 3D downloadable file formats: File sizes are included on the web site so that the user can anticipate download time.

WRP- This is the proprietary Geomagic Studio format, in which the original model was created. The following file formats are derivatives of this file

DXF- (Data eXchange File) The primary 3D model format of Autodesk's AutoCAD, and similar Computer Aided Drafting (CAD programs). Additionally, these files can be opened in ArcGIS.

3DF- The Modelpress file format

3DS- 3D studio MAX file format

OBJ- Wavefront Object file format

STL- (STereoLithography File)

WRL- (VRML) Virtual Reality Modeling Language

What species and specimen information is provided by PaleoView3D?

The following data are available for each specimen: specimen number (direct link to original museum website if specimen information is available), element (tooth position, skeletal element, etc…), locality number and name (if appropriate), Basin, State, Epoch, Land Mammal Age, NALMA Subage (e.g., Sandcouleean, Graybullian), Biochron (e.g., Cf-2, Wa-0), year collected, collector, and collection technique (surface, quarry, anthill, screen-washed).

The following data are available for each species: brief species description (this will include a direct link to the informal ordinal description under the teaching link on the home page- still under construction), comprehensive list of references for this species (with a link to reference list - this is still under construction), and a direct link to the species page on the North American Systematic Database.

What do the technical specifications mean?

The technical specifications, included with each model, provide the specific settings at which that model was scanned and processed, including:

Number of Scans- The number of individual passes scanned over the specimen to acquire data for the entire model.  Because the scanning system is limited to only those portions of an object that are visible to the laser, multiple scans of a specimen from varying orientations are taken and merged back together, to yield a complete 3D model. The individual fossil dictates the number of scans per specimen. For dental specimens, typically five scans are necessary for complete coverage (occlusal, anterior, posterior, buccal, and lingual views). Postcranial and cranial specimens typically will require one additional scan (inferior).

Specimen- Original, epoxy cast, or plaster cast. We have found that when properly coated, both original specimens and epoxy casts scan equally well. High resolution plaster casts are ideal because they need not be coated, and allow for easier exposure settings.

Coating- The type of coating used on the surface of the specimen to dissipate light: ammonium chloride (H4CLN), Magnaflux Spotcheck SKD-S2 Developer, magnesium chloride (Cl2Mg). Most specimens have a very reflective surface (particularly the enamel in dental specimens) and require coating. Reflections from the specimen yield spikes in the point data, as the CCD becomes oversaturated with light.

Polygon Number- The number of polygons constituting the final surfaced the model. The coordinate point cloud acquired by the scanner is exported into Geomagic Studio, where it is converted into a polygonal mesh. This mesh is then wrapped with a surface.

Point Number- The number of coordinate data points comprising the digital 3D model. The data collected from the scanner is in the form of an ordered point cloud, each point with unique (X,Y,Z) coordinates. These data are used to construct the polygonal surface model.

Exposure- The amount of time in (msec) the Charge Coupled Device (CCD) is exposed to the reflected laser light. Sensors 0 and 1 have independent exposure settings, each listed on the website. Because each sensor is composed of an identical CCD array (similar to those found in digital cameras and camcorders) the exposure time functions as essentially the shutter speed of the probe. (For more information on the sensors see Laser Scanning Section)

Spacing- The linear spacing, or distance between individual scan lines, in the original point cloud (refer to the Laser Scanning section). Also referred to as step-size, this is the distance the probe travels in the X direction between polylines. For the RPS-120, the minimum step size is 0.01mm, therefore data is taken only every 0.01 mm along the X axis. The spacing can be increased proportionately for larger specimens to decrease scanning time, and file size.

Other resources offered by PaleoView 3D

Teaching - This link is under construction but will include an informal overview of each late Paleocene/early Eocene mammalian group; list of introductory and picture books on mammalian paleontology; links to Web sites that are appropriate and teaching oriented, and quantitative paleontology/evolution exercises designed by Science Education majors for class room use.

References: Paleocene/Eocene scientific literature.

Links: Including PaleoView3D related sites: museums that house North American Paleocene/Eocene collections, appropriate and significant paleontological, biological, and morphometric links, and teaching resource sites.