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Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596

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Automation in Construction

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Digital reproduction of historical building ornamental components: From

3D scanning to 3D printing
Jie Xu a, Lieyun Ding a,, Peter E.D. Love b
Institute of Construction Management, School of Civil Engineering and Mechanics, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, 1037 Luoyu Road Wuhan. P.R. China
School of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: A combination of the three-dimensional (3D) scanning and cement mortar-based 3D printing technology is used
Received 17 November 2016 to develop a novel process for reproducing a historical building ornamental component, which is traditionally
Accepted 9 January 2017 labor intensive and expensive to construct. A hierarchical algorithm for model slicing and a modied scan line
Available online xxxx
algorithm for nozzle path are developed and presented. To demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed digital re-
production process, a damaged cup-shaped individual plinth from the campus at the Huazhong University of Sci-
3D scanning
ence and Technology (HUST) in China, is 3D scanned, re-modelled, and re-constructed using specic 3D printing
3D printing technology. An estimation is implemented to the faade of the printed plinth as well as the scanning accuracy.
Historical building The compressive strength of the printed plinth is tested and calculated, which resulted in 19.8 Mpa and
Digital reproduction 15.6 Mpa for its vertical and lateral directions, respectively. The reproduction evaluation indicates that the devel-
oped process provides the foundation and impetus for future work in the area of the digital reproduction of his-
torical building ornamental components using 3D scanning and cement mortar-based 3D printing.
2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction prospective future environment of the cultural property under treat-

ment. These interventions, which are likely to occur simultaneously in
Construction is an ancient human activity; the structures created a major conservation project, are successively [8]: (1) Prevention of dete-
have engendered society's ability to function and prosper. Some of rioration; (2) Preservation; (3) Consolidation; (4) Restoration; (5) Reha-
them are deemed to be of outstanding historical, aesthetic, or cultural bilitation; (6) Reproduction; and (7) Reconstruction. The seven degrees
importance and often provided with a special status (i.e. landmark des- of conservation interventions are adopted in different application sce-
ignation) ordaining their conservation. Since the emergence of civiliza- narios. The three interventions of restoration, reproduction and recon-
tion, generally associated with the nal stages of the Neolithic struction involve manufacturing or replacing missing or damaged
Revolution (9130 BCE), types of materials, methods and technologies elements or components of historical buildings. A virtual reproduction
used for construction have changed signicantly. The materials used process of a building element or component often serves as a restoration
to construct buildings of historic signicance are invariably subjected task. There are however two challenges that curb the reproduction
to an array of factors contributed to their decay and failure such as air process:
pollution [1,2], salts [3,4], biodeterioration [5,6] and mechanical loads
(usage and trafc) [7]. Consequently, historical structures need to be a) Drawings and other documentation are often missing or are scant,
conserved for future generations to connect with their ancestors and re- which renders it almost impossible to restore or reconstruct them
spect their achievements. Such conservation also allows people from to their original condition [9] and incompatible conservation inter-
other cultures to understand the values and beliefs that have shaped a ventions without aforehand measurement can enhance the decay
civilization. in historical buildings [10]. Due to the idiosyncrasy of their construc-
In the conservation work of a historical building, there are a standard tion and location, conventional measurement methods such as man-
of ethics that highlights the requirements of proposed interventions and ual physical mapping or expert-naked-eye analysis are laborious
encourages a minimum effective intervention. Seven essential degrees and inefcient [11], while some cultural properties are forbidden
of interventions are made at various scales and levels of intensity ac- to directly touch or intervene for fear of erosion by a pollution of de-
cording to the physical condition, causes of deterioration and tection devices or human skins [12]. This leads to a demand of an ef-
cient digital non-contact or indirect measurement method; and
Corresponding author. b) Stone and masonry structures or components widely exist in histor-
E-mail address: (L. Ding). ical buildings and cultural heritages [13,14]. There is a propensity for
0926-5805/ 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
86 J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596

structures and components of such materials to have detailed en- Reverse engineering is essentially the process of discovering the
gravings, which may be on complex curved surfaces [11]. To manu- original materials and technology used to create a component [29].
ally reproduce or reconstruct these components is an arduous task; With 3D scanning the potential to recreate the whole or a part of a com-
the number of artisans in China, for example, who have skills and ex- ponent is made possible. Research concerning 3D modeling of the ob-
perience to undertake this work is limited and even decreasing, and jects have been comprehensively conducted [36-38]. Most scanners,
the cost to manufacture templates for their construction activities is however, produce objects data of accuracy and resolution beyond the
an expensive undertaking. New adaptable automatic restoration ability to practically reproduce them in physical forms [30]. Reproduc-
methods are encouraged for architectural conservation work. tion devices such as 3D printers are not capable of maintaining this res-
olution in the nal product. Wachowiack and Karas [29] state, the term
resolution applied to replication refers to the ability to accurately pro-
Yet with the advancement and development of digital technologies, duce an object from scan data (p.144). Minimizing the gap between
such problems can be overcome. Three-dimensional (3D) scanning im- scanning accuracy and reproduction resolution is a pervasive challenge
aging systems and photogrammetric shape measurement systems are for building components. Ultimately, however, the level of resolution
capable of measuring space dimension of existing structures and arte- and choice of material will determine the cost of restoration or the rep-
facts. As-built surface information can be acquired without physical lica that is produced.
contact, while digital photos and other camera or vision based systems
can be used for monitoring [15,16], recognition [17,18], localization 2.2. Physical reproduction: 3D printing for construction
[19] and tracking [20,21]. Combined with 3D printing technology,
which is an automatic manufacturing process without templates, the 3D printing (also referred to as Additive Manufacturing/Rapid
potential and increasing applications of 3D scanning for restoring or Prototyping) has been extensively used in the manufacturing sector as
reconstructing historical heritage buildings for people to enjoy is un- a way to automate, accelerate production and reduce material waste
bounded [22-24]. However, there is limited research that have used [39]. The use of this technology enables a variety of objects to be
these technologies to restore key components of historical buildings. manufactured or constructed direct from a digital environment; this
This paper presents a novel digital process for reproducing a whole or- is, however, dependent on the specication that is provided to the print-
namental component of a historical building using a combination of er and there are no limitations with regard to the material being used.
3D laser scanning and cement mortar-based 3D printing technology. Ce- As this technology has matured, it has become reliable and cheaper
ment mortar is used for that purpose, as is characterizes the physical and is now being used in the construction industry; referred to as 'Addi-
properties of stone or rock and performs harmoniously with the original tive Construction' [40], though its application in practice has still been
stony material in color, tone, texture, form and scale; this material con- limited [4143]. A detailed review of 3D printing and its potential appli-
forms to the requirements embedded in conservation ethics [8]. cations in construction can be found in Lim et al. [42], Perkins and
Skitmore [39], Wu et al. [44] and Labonnote et al. [40]. Notably, those
techniques that can be used for Additive Construction are:
2. Related work review of 3D scanning and 3D printing
a) Concrete-layered overlay: this method is based on layered concrete
2.1. Digital restoration of artefacts: 3D scanning extrusion and curing prototyping through a process of self-stabiliza-
tion. Contour Crafting (CC) can be undertaken, which allows a
Three dimensional scanning is a non-contact, non-destructive tech- smooth surface akin to a trowel to printed [45]. With this method
nology that digitally captures the shapes of physical objects using lasers, it is possible to erect a square foot of wall within 20 s and a 200 m2
lights or x-rays. A 3D scanner creates point clouds of data from the sur- single-storey house in one day [43]. Concrete Printing, another
face of an object; it is a way to capture a physical object's exact size and similar technology, is capable of smaller depositing resolution and
shape as a digital 3D representation that is stored in a computer [25]. incorporates functional voids into a bench structure [42];
The application of 3D scanning of handicrafts and cultural artefacts b) Sand powder-layered adhesive stack: this method refers to the pro-
assumes an important place among documentation and analytical tech- cess of layering a selectively bonding and solidifying powder using
niques used for heritage objects (e.g [26].). In fact, the digital conserva- an multi-hole adhesion agent extruded, such as D-shape developed
tion and interpretation of cultural heritage has attracted considerable by Monolite Ltd. Hardened powder such as this can be used to con-
attention in computer graphics, geometric modeling, virtual reality struct stone-like heterotypic components or structures [45,46]; and
and general computer science communities (e.g., [2729]). Examples c) Mechanization: this is quintessentially an automated or robotic pro-
of 3D scanning are replete now within the normative literatures since cess, usually realized by a robotic arm, which utilizes different mate-
the emergence of this technology in the 1990s [30,31]. For example, rials from above two methods (e.g., brick, metal and plastics).
the Stanford University and the University of Washington digitized Gramazio et al. [47] introduced the concept of robotic fabrication
the sculptures and architecture works produced by Michelangelo whereby bricks are produced and stacked to form freeform struc-
using 3D scanning technology [32]. tures. A Dutch startup known as MX3D [48] builds a steel-truss
The success of heritage 3D scanning has resulted in an array of com- bridge automatically by two robotic arms.
mercial applications being developed such as the MatterPort [33] that
can digitize objects and rooms and Faro large volume 3D laser scanning Despite the emergence of 3D printing and several successful experi-
technology that can be used for measuring buildings and creating City- ments being undertaken during construction, there have been no
scapes [34]. A 3D scan enables objects to be brought into a virtual work- studies that have examined 3D printing in the context of full scale re-
room, which means that its physical integrity is assured. In addition, production of ornamental stony components for historical buildings.
such scans provide an ability to ensure quality control during its physi- This paper aims to ll this gap and proposes a novel digital reproduction
cal restoration and reverse engineering [29,30]. In the case of quality process, specically focusing on historical building ornamental
control, parts and assemblies can be compared to the design specica- components.
tion and checked for tolerances. The identity and origin of an object
can be compared to other known similar artefacts to ensure that resto- 3. Proposed digital reproduction process and system composition
ration process can be replicated [35]. The ability to create multiple cross
sections and 3D overlays of data has only been enabled by 3D scanning; The proposed digital reproduction task for a historical building orna-
replicas of original shapes can be produced. mental component is independently developed in a digital construction
J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596 87

Model acquisition 3.1. Modeling module

Damaged 3D scanning PCD Reverse encapsulation STL This module is responsible for generating the component solid
component model file model, which consists of the following:

a) 3D scanning instrument: The system utilizes a hand-held laser scan-

ner with a high-speed projector to manually measure the compo-
Machine control Hierarchical algorithm
nent. The high-performance hardware and the efcient algorithm
programs Modified scan line algorithm
real-time produce the PCD le needed to create a 3D image of the
b) Modeling software: The PCD le undergoes removal of redundant
and error points as well as noise reduction in a point cloud process-
Machine Cement mortar ing software to obtain a complete PCD model of the component; the
movement extrusion system uses the mature commercial software Geomagic Studio to en-
capsulate the PCD le and output an STL model, which can be iden-
tied by the control module.

Intact raw component

3.2. Control module

Replacement of damaged one This module numerically controls each of the others with the follow-
ing functions:
Fig. 1. The process ow chart.
a) Microprocessor: with powerful capability of information processing;
managing man-machine interaction interface.
system that actualizes 3D scanning and cement mortar-based 3D print- b) External input: with different data interfaces such as serial ports and
ing. The process is divided into the following four steps and includes al- Universal Serial Bus (USB) communications to receive external data
gorithms that have been developed for executing this task (Fig. 1): input.
c) G code interpretation: identifying the numerical control code, G code,
a) Model acquisition: the dimensional data of an intact historical build- and translating it as the control ows of the motion module.
ing component is directly measured using a hand-held structured d) Mechanical signal processing: dealing with machine motions such as
light 3D scanner which is a triangulation laser scanner and has a moving, stopping, limiting, zeroing and alarming.
high accuracy and mobility for short-range (b1 m focal distance) e) Man-machine interaction interface: with convenient interface for
scanning [25]; then the point cloud data (PCD) is inputted into a re- operation.
verse engineering software (e.g., Geomagic Studio), which automati-
cally encapsulate the PCD into a 3D solid model. 3.3. Motion module
b) Program generation: a STereo Lithography (STL) le is formatted
from the solid model and inputted into the data processing module Fig. 3 illustrates the composition of the motion module including
of the system. This is used to generate a machine control program in structure components, motion tracks, motion sliders, transmission com-
accordance with a hierarchical algorithm for model slicing and a ponents, and drive motors. The module comprises of a steel structure:
modied scan line algorithm for nozzle path planning. The develop- base (L 2.50 m W 2.25 m); gantry (H 1.75 m W 2.25 m) with a lifting
ment of these algorithms is presented below in the next section of beam that is equipped with an electronic nozzle; and two transmission
this paper. components. The lifting beam moves vertically while the gantry moves
c) Component printing: the control programs coordinate the machine back and forth along the pair of tracks on the steel frame base, coordi-
movement and cement mortar extrusion so as to layer the construc- nately driven by four Panasonic motors. The effective working space is
tion of the component. approximately 2.0 m 2.0 m 2.0 m for large scale component
d) Component installation: the printed component is post-processed
(e.g., polishing) and installed to replace the damaged one in the his-
torical building; this then nalizes the reproduction process. Pipe Motor

The digital construction system contains ve modules (Fig. 2): (1) Steel gantry
modeling, (2) control, (3) motion, (4) extrusion, and (5) data process-
ing. Each is briey introduced hereinafter.
toothed belt
Laser scanning Motion slider
Modeling module
Reverse encapsulation
Motion track
Control module Electronic
X-axis motion Screw pump nozzle
Digital construction Y-axis motion
Motion module Z-axis motion
Screw pumping
Extrusion module Pipe conveying Steel frame base
Nozzle extrusion
Data processing Model slicing
module Nozzle path planning

Fig. 2. System composition Fig. 3. The motion module and extrusion module
88 J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596

Control Module
regulation Conveying pipe

Electronic switch

Electromagnetic Electromagnetic
Hopper valve coin 1 valve coin 2

Screw Pump Nozzle

Electronic nozzle

Fig. 4. Design of the extrusion module

manufacture. The motion module has the axis linkage function of XYZ possess a circular hole. The sheet iron moves left and right to switch
triaxial constant position and zeroing motion, XYZ triaxial linear inter- the nozzle by selectively powering the electromagnetic coils.
polation and the circular interpolation motion of any the two axes.

3.5. Data processing module

3.4. Extrusion module
The numerical control programs (G code) for controlling the motion
This module has a direct impact on material deposition and and the extrusion modules are accommodated in this module. The soft-
forming, which contains a pump, a conveying pipe and an electronic ware function interface of this module is shown in Fig. 5. After an STL le
nozzle (Fig. 3), with its overall design presented in Fig. 4. A screw is imported into the software, the model (middle area of the interface)
pump of 10 L capacity is adopted to provide uniform pressure goes through a process of model slicing and nozzle path planning
when delivering material, which is controlled by a frequency trans- (right area of the interface) by setting parameters (left area of the inter-
former. The nozzle relies on an electronic switch, which is a solenoid face). The red and blue lines in the right area respectively represent the
valve comprising of two electromagnetic coils and a sheet iron that prole and lling scan lines; the nozzle closes only when moving along

Fig. 5. Software function interface of the data processing module.

J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596 89

the short lines connecting two adjacent lling scan lines at the end- that are not more than x,Z is the layer thickness. Each sequence
points, which are called jump lines. number of the incisal planes intersecting with triangular facets can
be calculated according to the formulas above to establish a grouped
4. Program generation: Algorithms for model slicing and nozzle table.
path planning b) Intersecting of the triangular facets and incisal planes: In Fig. 7 a sche-
matic of the intersection of an incisal plane and a model triangular
The cement mortar placement process of the 3D printing-based con- facet ABC is presented. The z value of the incisal plane equals to h,
struction follows the principle of layered superposition, which relies on with two intersections V1 and V2. The coordinates of points A, B, C
the model data process. Thus, the realization of this process requires the are respectively (x1 , y1 , z1), (x2 , y2 , z2) , (x3 , y3 , z3). Then the co-
development of modied algorithms for model slicing and nozzle path ordinate of point V1 is
planning proposes. 8
> hz1
> x x2 x1 x1
4.1. Hierarchical algorithm for model slicing < z2 z1
hz1 2
> y y y1 y1
> z2 z1 2
Hierarchical processing refers to a series of parallel evenly spaced in- :
cisal planes intersections with a model along the designated direction of
layer slicing to acquire proles of each layer section. The hierarchical al-
gorithm is based on the position information of triangles of an STL Point V2 and intersections of other triangular facets and this incisal
model, which is presented in Fig. 6. plane are equally calculated.
Three key processes are required to determine the positioning for c) Sequencing of the intersections: As is shown in Fig. 8, there are ve
slicing the model: calculated intersections for the incisal planes and triangular facets.
The two intersections a and b on 1 represent the rst and second
a) A grouping method based on the position information of triangles: The vertex of the prole section. The intersection c from 2, which is
value z is steeled numbered, which is in accordance with the incisal equal with the intersection b, is taken as the third point, and so on,
planes. By assumption, the minimum z of an STL model is Z0, the to determine the points so that they can be combined to ensure
minimum z of a triangular facet is Zmin, and the maximum z is Zmax, that the entire section prole is obtained.
then the sequence number n of incisal plane intersecting with the
triangular facet is between number i and j which are calculated by 4.2. Modied scan line algorithm for nozzle path planning
the following equation:
A modied scan line algorithm suitable for the nozzle path planning
Z min Z 0 Z max Z 0
i ;j : 1 [49], which can accommodate the characteristics of cement mortar-
based 3D printing for building components is proposed. The process
In Eq. (1) above, x represents the smallest integer of those that are successively goes through a prole scanning and a ll scanning, which
not less than x, whereas x represents the biggest integer of those is applicable to different sections including those comprising of irregu-
lar-shaped inner proles. Fig. 9 presents a ow chart for the algorithm.
4.2.1. Scanning of the prole
The inner and outer section proles can be judged by the inclusion
Input STL model relation of the circumscribed rectangles. As shown in Fig. 10, the
coordinate minimum points of the circumscribed rectangles of Prole
a and Prole b are respectively E1(xmin, ymin), E'1(x'min, y'min), and
Read value of Zmin and Zmax of the model E2(xmax, ymax), E'2(x'max, y'max) for the coordinate maximum points. The
inclusion relation of a and b can be determined by Eq. (3).
Group the triangular facets 8 0
> xmax Nxmax
< 0
ymax Nymax
0 3
Determine a incisal plane Z=Zmin+K Z >
> xmin bxmin
: 0
ymin bymin

NO Due to the width of the extruded materials, the prole scan lines
Z Zmax
need to be offset, specically, the original prole scan lines offset to
YES the graphic entity interior by a distance d (d is half the width of the ex-
truded materials, the same below). As shown in Fig. 11, the solid and
Intersecting of triangular facets
and the incisal plane

Sequencing of the intersections

Lift the incisal plane a Z


Fig. 6. The hierarchical algorithm process. Fig. 7. Schematic of the intersection of an incisal plane and a model triangular facet
90 J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596

Fig. 8. Developed pattern of the triangular facets and a section prole.

dotted lines are respectively the prole scan line and the prole scan According to Eq. (4), all the vertices of a prole scan line offset can be
line offset with P1(x1, y1)P0(x0, y0)P2(x2, y2) given. Then the coor- calculated. Then the vertices are joined up successfully to obtain the off-
dinate after offset of a vertex P0(x0, y0) of the polygon prole scan line set prole scan lines of the entire graph.
is In this algorithm, the nearest vertex from the origin in the prole
scan lines offset is taken as the start point. The end point is 2d of dis-
8 8 tance away from the start point by clockwise; the scanning direction
> dx1 Bx2 Ay2 dy1 > y1 y2
> X q
x0 >
> A q q is counterclockwise. As shown in Fig. 12, Q1(x1, y1) is the start point,
< y1 x2 x1 y2 >
x2 y2 x 2 y2 x 2 y2
1 1
; including
1 1 2 2 Q2(x2, y2) is the end point, and Q3(x3, y3) is an adjacent vertex of the
> dy Bx2 Ay2 dx1 > x1 x2
> Y 1 q y0 >
> B q q start point with point Q1and Q3 given, then
> y1 x2 x1 y2 >
: x1 y1
2 2 x 2 y2 x 2 y2
1 1 2 2
4 >
>  Q 1 Q 2  2d

>  Q 1 Q 2  Q 1 Q 3
Start  1 3   2 3  2d
8 2
< x2 x1 2 y2 y1 2 2d
Offset the profile y y 1 x3 x1 q
2 y
3 y1 x2 x1 0
x3 x1 y3 y1 x3 x2 2 y3 y2 2 2d
2 2

Determine the starting point

and end point Eq. (5) enables the coordinate of the endpoint Q2(x2, y2) to be

Odd layer?

Scanning along X-axis

Scanning along Y-axis


Fig. 9. Flow chart of the modied scan line algorithm for nozzle path planning. Fig. 11. Intersection calculation of adjacent segments of a polygon after offset.

Fig. 10. Judgment of the inner and outer proles. Fig. 12. The start point and the endpoint of scanning of the prole.
J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596 91

4.2.2. Scanning of the ll Table 1

Scanning of the ll refers to lling the rest region of the prole scan. Materials prepared for the experiment.

The algorithm is required for scanning the X-axis and Y-axis orientation Element Description
for the odd and the even layers. An example of scanning the odd layers is Sand Natural river sand with 2.1 neness modulus and 0.12% moisture
provided. content
Assuming the maximum coordinate value of the offset prole path Cement P.C32.5R Composite Portland cement
in Y direction isymax, and ymin for the minimum coordinate value, the Water Polycarboxylate Superplasticizer
scanning orientation of the odd scan lines is X-axis positive direction
Fiber 3 mm micro polypropylene bers
and X-axis negative direction for the even ones. This is, however, depen-
dent on their Y coordinate values. When the scanning distance is D, the
number of lling scan lines is n= ( ymax ymin)/D 1, then the equation
for the No.i lling scan line is:
shapes or even heteromorphosis and no drawings exist; an examples
Y ymin iD; i 1; 2; 3; ; n: 6 is presented in Fig. 13.
Within the campus at the Huazhong University of Science and Tech-
The scan nishes when the Y coordinate value of a lling scan line nology (HUST), there are also damaged stone historical plinths similar
meets YN ymax D. to those in Fig. 13 and one of them with simple curved surface has
When a lling scan line, y = h, intersects with a segment of a offset been selected for this research to demonstrate the feasibility of the pro-
prole scan line, the equation of the line, where the segment is located, posed digital reproduction process. Notably, the damaged plinth func-
is capably calculated, or rather given, which is here assumed to be tions as an ornamental component for a timber column structure. The
Ax+ By+ C = 0 and is expressed as: role of the plinth is to protect the timber column from water damage
 and collision, as well provide lateral support and decorative aesthetics.
Ax By C 0 According to previous Jump table test, a ne aggregate ber cement
yh mortar is made up for reproduction of the plinth, which has a 0.3 water
cement ratio and a 1:1 sand: cement ratio, plus 0.1% micro polypropyl-
The intersections of the lling scan line and the segment can be cal- ene bers, including 1.25% water reducer. A summary of the cement
culated using Eq. (7). Assuming the horizontal coordinate of the inter- mortar mix used is presented in Table 1.
section is x0, the horizontal coordinate of the odd number of endpoint For the purpose of the reproduction process, a hand-held structure
corresponding to the intersection is x0 + D, or x0 D for the even num- light 3D scanner, Creaform MetraSCAN 3D [50], is used to obtain the di-
ber of endpoint. mensional information of an intact plinth. Prior to scanning the plinth, a
Jump lines are used to connect the endpoints of lling scan lines suc- preparatory work is done as instrument calibration for the C-Track dual-
cessfully in accordance with the sequence that is followed. Similarly, the camera sensor, which is erected nearby to establish a spatial reference
entire nozzle path planning is completed (Fig. 5), including scanning of coordinate system for scanning measurement. The scanner is steadily
the prole and the ll realized by the modied scan line algorithm de- held and revolves around the column, which is repeated several times.
scribed above. The high speed laser measurement and data transmission realizes
real-time surface rendering of the measured plinth as well as the col-
5. Process validation umn and surrounding environment on the workstation screen when
the scanner is working.
A column is one of the most common and essential components of a Reverse engineering software known as Geomagic Studio processes
building responsible for bearing loads, as well possessing aesthetic fea- the measurement signals with a PCD model, which is created and
tures. A plinth is usually used in a complete column structure for deliv- displayed on the screen. An optimized mesh generation treatment for
ering upper load, water resistance, collision avoidance, lateral support the PCD model is conducted using the software after the redundant
and aesthetics. However, stone plinths used in historical Chinese timber PCD of the column and surrounding environment is manually removed.
buildings are often prone to deterioration; they are often of curved This is an encapsulation and modication process to obtain an accurate

a b c
Fig. 13. Damaged stone plinths of varying degrees, (a) almost intact plinth, (b) partly damaged plinth, (c) completely damaged plinth.
92 J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596

Measurement Mesh generation

signals treatment
Redundant PCD

PCD model
STL model
Intact plinth 3D

Fig. 14. 3D scanning and PCD treatment process of the intact plinth.

and valid plinth solid STL model that can be used for printing. The 3D 6. Reproduction evaluation
scanning and PCD treatment process is presented in Fig. 14.
The plinth printing process is dependent on the self-forming and sta- The digital reproduction process for the historical plinth presented is
bilization of cement mortar layering. It takes approximately 10 to novel and has the potential to replace the manual procedure for a resto-
15 min to mix the materials, which is able to be cured within one ration task. However, it is necessary to evaluate this new approach pro-
hour. There is no discontinuity in the printing process, as a bucket of cess to ensure that the printed plinth provides a similar exterior as the
the mixture is poured into the feed hopper by manual as soon as the original one and the required structural performance so as to be used
current mixture is almost completely pumped. Before the nozzle de- in practice.
posits the material along the setting paths, water and neat cement
paste are successively pumped and extruded from the nozzle's head, 6.1. Facade features estimate
to lubricate the passage, particularly the pipeline.
The intact plinth solid model is divided into two parts before printing. The scanning resolution is high for such a concrete building compo-
Four similar half plinths have been printed. Two of the half plinths are nent, despite the encapsulation processes modeling is an approximation
intended for a compressive strength test. The other two afford the restora- modeling of the physical intact plinth. The PCD le contains tens of
tion task by joining together to form the entire plinth when installed. The thousands of points, which possesses an average distance of 0.10 mm
footprint of the entire plinth is 0.7 m in diameter and the height is approx. between two points (Fig. 17a). The surface of the 3D solid model (STL
40 80 mm. The plinth shape is akin to a curved cup with a circular hollow model) is a triangular mesh incorporating a vast number of tiny triangu-
(diameter of approx. 370 mm) inside it and consists of four layers (Fig. lar planes determined by any of three points (Fig. 17b). The digital rep-
15). The average printing time of 2 min per layer was recorded. resentation surface and geometry is akin to the original physical
The ribbed surface nish of the two printed half plinths need to be artefact; however, the core is slightly larger to accommodate the struc-
polished for an improved smooth surface reproduction effect by using tural adhesive lling.
a sander and abrasive paper, especially the surfaces in touch with the In terms of visualization, there remains an obvious distinction be-
timber column and the ground. Then, they can be painted using imita- tween the printed and the original plinth. This is due to the printing
tion stone paint or undergo an old process treatment. The two printed art and the material as: (1) the layered stack art that results in a vertical
half plinths enclose the column using a structural adhesive to bond stratied surface; (2) the nozzle extrusion process that results in the
them together. Notably, the diameter of the column is 350 mm so that cascade faade; (3) and the material proportion that affects the surface
10 mm gap between the column and plinth is considered for inlling
the structural adhesive. Residual part of the original damaged plinth is
removed away before replacement and the completely reproduced
plinth can be seen in Fig. 16.


Fig. 15. The two printed half individual plinths. Fig. 16. Installation of the printed plinth after post-processing.
J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596 93

reproduction quality of curved side wall of the cup-shape plinth is un-

satisfactory. As the deposited strip, controlled by the nozzle diameter,
was too thick to form the ne curved side wall, which is represented
by a two-ladder surface. In addition the rough surface does not resemble
the original due to its layered texture, and has a darker color tone com-
pared to natural stone (Fig. 18a).
The distance of the central lines of adjacent strips (A) is approxi-
mately 17.0 21.5 mm. The distance between two adjacent strips (inter-
val) (B) is approximately 0.5 3.0 mm and the width of a strip (C) is
approximately 15.0 20.0 mm (Fig. 18b). The concrete texture, the
mild variation of width of strips and intervals, result from the non-per-
fect coordination of the pump pressure output and machine (nozzle)
movement. This particularly arises for short lling paths that are thick
a at their endpoints and thinner at the middle sections. The 15 mm
wide nozzle diameter has a direct impact on the surface uniformity,
which can be improved with more strips within one unit area when
the nozzle diameter is diminished. Therefore, the post-processing
work is necessary for a practical reproduction of a historical building
component (Fig. 16).

6.2. Compressive strength test

Two printed half plinths are kept for a compressive strength test. The
compressive strength test is taken over six core samples drilled down
from the two tested half plinths. The six core samples are divided into
two groups according to vertical and lateral coring directions (Fig.
19a,b). A core-drilling machine is used to drill down the core samples,
which are planished at the end surfaces by a grinding machine to ensure
that they are appropriate for testing (Fig. 19c). The core samples are cyl-
inder-shaped of approx.70 mm both in height (H) and section diameter
b (d) (H/d = 1.0).
The test is intended for the 28d compressive strength and conducted
Fig. 17. (a) Detail of the PCD model of the intact plinth after manual treatment, (b) the 3D at room temperature. Taking the group of vertical coring direction for
solid STL model of the intact plinth. example, three core samples are placed in the pressure plate and com-
pressed by a press machine (Fig. 20). Three maximum force values
(Fc1 , Fc2,Fc3) of the samples in the test are acquired, as well as their
planeness of per strip or layer. In this instance resolution discrepancies areas of the compression section (A1, A2, A3). The compressive strength
between scanning and printing can materialize. is expressed as:
Factors such as size, shape, color, and uniformity, are used to de-
scribe the faade features of the printed plinth. A straight steel ruler  
F c1 F c2 F c3
and a band tape are taken to measure size parameters. The shape and f cu;cor =3 8
A1 A2 A3
color of the printed plinth can be observed by the naked eye. A steel
ruler and a feeler are used to measure the strip intervals uniformity.
The printed plinth is 0.7 m wide in diameter of the bottom surface In Eq. (8), fcu,cor is the 28d compressive strength of the plinth in ver-
and the height is approx. 40 80 mm with a curved cup shape and tical direction, which is an average value. The 28d compressive strength
hoar faade, which is similar to the original intact one. Yet the in lateral direction is calculated in the same way.

a b
Fig. 18. (a) The layered texture and ladder surface, (b) the geometric features of strips.
94 J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596

Fig. 19. (a) Core drilling positions of vertical direction, (b) core drilling positions of lateral direction, (c) vertical core drilling and core sample after planished.

The compressive strength (fcu,cor) of the printed plinth is tested and as favorable environment provide high forming strength for the printed
calculated to be 19.8 Mpa and 15.6 Mpa for vertical and lateral direc- components.
tions, respectively. The difference of fcu , cor value between vertical and
lateral direction is caused by the cohesive force of layers and strips. In 7. Conclusion
the vertical direction, layers of cement mortar stacked one by one by
gravity and strips within a layer are orthogonal with those of the The process of 3D scanning is becoming an important tool for con-
upper and lower layers according to the modied scan line algorithm. serving and reproducing cultural heritage artefacts. Such technology
In the lateral direction, strips bond with each other due to the stickiness also provides an ability to acquire high spatial resolution data needed
of the material as an external force. Thus, the weaker bonding of strips to ameliorate the effectiveness of the reproduction process. Concrete
in the lateral direction leads to a lower compressive strength compared based 3D printing is now gaining interest and momentum as it begins
to that in the vertical. to become mature; 3D scanning of a physical object provides a mecha-
The compressive strength of the printed cement mortar-based nism to derive virtual data and information and when integrated with
plinth is lower than the original stone plinth. Factors include pump 3D printing the reproduction of an artefact becomes a reality. The com-
pressure, nozzle diameter, layer thickness, lling path spacing, material bined use of such technologies provides unbounded opportunities for
property, maintenance measure, and environmental impact. Stable uni- stimulating innovation and a new digital construction process, with cor-
form output of the pump pressure ensures the integrity of materials responding algorithms for reproducing a historical building ornamental
forming. An appropriate nozzle diameter in accord with the layer thick- component. The approach proposed in this paper is validated through
ness and lling path spacing forms efcient bonding between layers and an overall digital reproduction of an individual plinth of a damaged
strips, while the material properties and maintenance measures as well curved cup shape stone, which demonstrates the future of combined
J. Xu et al. / Automation in Construction 76 (2017) 8596 95

Fig. 20. The compressive test taken over a core sample.

use of 3D scanning and 3D printing in solving a pervasive and on-going It is suggested that the real challenges ahead for construction pertain to
problem in architectural restoration work. the issues of how to reproduce the original natural materials that have
been used in historical buildings.
8. Limitations and future research
The research presented combined 3D scanning and 3D printing for
historical building restoration, and demonstrated the potential of this The presented work has been supported by the National 12th Five-
approach to unlock a new restoration process. There remain some lim- Year Plan Major Scientic and Technological Issues through grant
itations, which need to be acknowledged to engender future work in 2015BAK33B04.
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