Stanford Develops Technology to Fax in 3-D

Transcript of article aired on CNN Headline News, February 12/13, 1996
Rebroadcast by KTLA Los Angeles, WAGA Atlanta, WJW Detroit, KCRA Sacramento, KSAZ and KTVK Phoenix, and KUSA Denver
Also aired on CNN Science & Technology Week, February 17, 1996
Fred Wayne, Correspondent

FRED WAYNE, Correspondent: We all know what a fax looks like - pieces of paper. But this plastic statuette of a happy Buddha is also a fax - the first of its kind. Researchers at Stanford University's computer graphics laboratory conjured up a way to send highly detailed three dimensional computer models over ordinary telephone lines.

BRIAN CURLESS, Stanford University: This is a method called optical triangulation.

FRED WAYNE: The process begins with a laser scanner and newly designed computer software to create a 3-D model. On the other end of the fax transmission, a machine called a stereo lithograph turns the model into something you can hold in your hands.

MARC LEVOY, Stanford University: A layer, a thin layer of resin, sort of an epoxy resin plastic is laid down and then selectively hardened with a laser beam, and then another thin layer of liquid resin is laid down and then again selectively hardened with a laser, and that builds up the object layer by layer.

FRED WAYNE: The 3-D fax machine draws on some already existing technology, but the scientists at Stanford say they've come up with the know how to make it work in the real world. Take the movie industry, which is using computers to create magic on the screen.

MARC LEVOY: Our dream is take a model like this, put it in a box about the size of a microwave oven, shut the door, push a button and you come back a few hours later and you have a computer model.

FRED WAYNE: And companies like General Electric see important industrial applications.

BILL LORENSEN, General Electric: We might, for instance, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where our jet engine department is, scan in a part that's been cast and transmit it to one of our other facilities in a foreign country.

FRANK WAYNE: The fax is an accurate representation of the original down to a quarter millimeter. That's about the thickness of a piece of paper and greater detail is expected with future refinements of the technology.

The plastic Buddha sprang from the most complex computer model ever made from an object. It's creators believe the Buddha will bring good fortune to a new age in faxing technology.

Fred Wayne for CNN, Stanford, California.

(Spelling and attribution corrections by Marc Levoy and Brian Curless.)