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Changing the face of scientific visualization

Shane Transue
Shane Transue

Imagine having the ability to scan something—a physical object—and then duplicate it somewhere else. Not only has Shane Transue imagined this, he is working to make it a reality through his graduate studies in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Transue is currently developing a 3-D scanning system with the hope that anyone with a 3-D scanner and a computer can scan large physical objects and transfer them into a virtual environment.

“Based on the everyday availability of 2-D scanners and fax machines, we are able to effectively send any document between any two locations that contain these devices,” he says. “We hope to accomplish a similar feat with 3-D scanning and printing.”

According to Transue, with the increasing availability of 3-D printers, one domain is rapidly expanding: the virtual transmission of 3-D objects. The premise of this application is to scan a physical object into a virtual format and then transmit it to a 3-D printer to re-create the object in a different location. This would greatly increase the speed at which physical objects can be transmitted, impacting everything from manufacturing to art reproduction. For example, if an auto manufacturer developed a functional prototype of a mechanical part and they then wanted to send that prototype to their manufacturers for mass production, they could send an exact 3-D definition of that part to the manufacturer via 3-D scanning. The manufacturer could then print as many replicas of the mechanical part as they need.

“Making this process almost instantaneous (compared to manually sending the part with shipping) will impact how businesses can transfer products,” Transue explains.

Additional applications include 3-D scanning for highly accurate standardization of mechanical parts, surface-property analysis and thermal imaging of 3-D objects.

Transue is on track to complete his master’s degree in spring 2014, after which he intends to continue his research with associate professor Min-Hyung Choi and pursue a PhD in computer science.

“My hope is to develop a new set of tools that provide the ability to change how we interact with virtual models of our physical environment,” he says. “Scanning surface information of physical objects to build virtual models is merely an introduction to the vast amount of information that we can collect from the real world. Building virtual models and providing alternative perspectives of our physical environment will drastically increase our understanding of the world around us.” His goal is to make this process easy and accessible.

“I hope that my work, along with Dr. Choi’s, will lead the basis upon which 3-D scanning and printing will revolutionize scientific visualization and modern manufacturing, so that anyone with a 3-D printer can create their design,” he says.

Outside of his research Transue enjoys working in other areas of computer science such as language design and web design; he’s used these skills to develop the department’s Graphics Lab website and manage the lab equipment.

He often visits his parents in Nevada, where he spends a lot of time running and working on ATVs, and he enjoys skateboarding and playing the drums. Transue also maintains an extensive collection of remote-controlled cars, rockets and planes, all of which he constructed. Maybe one day he’ll duplicate his collection, without all the work of building it piece by piece.

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