3D Scanner Captures Hero’s Fine Details

Feb. 10, 2015
Sculptor Greg Marra worked with Steve Kersen of NVision Inc. to capture the fine details of a Navy sniper rifle.

American Sniper, Clint Eastwood’s film of former Navy Seal Chris Kyle’s autobiography, is a box-office hit, grossing more than $280 million through February 8, but the late Mr. Kyle was already a legendary figure. So impressive has been the tale of his military career — he served on four tours of duty during the Iraq War, earning two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with "V" devices, among other decorations, and as a combat sniper he is credited with 160 confirmed ‘kills’ (the unconfirmed kills take total over 250) that his image was selected as representative of all Navy Seals, for a memorial to their legacy.

The purpose of the Sarasota, FL sculptor Greg Marra’s work has changed in the months since he began the project, but Steve Kersen of NVision Inc. is pleased have participated in honoring the soldier by aiding in creating that life-size, 3-D image of the hero.

NVision Inc. develops high-accuracy, non-contact optical measurement systems and services for reverse engineering and inspection.

Two years ago, before production of Eastwood’s film began, NVision volunteered its 3D laser-scanning services to Marra in creating the life-size sculpture of Kyle. The sculptor had contacted NVision for help duplicating the details of the MK 13 bolt-action rifle that Kyle used in his military service. “We were more than happy to volunteer our services to help Mr. Marra create this tribute to a fallen American hero,” said Kersen, NVision’s vice president of sales and marketing.

After Kyle’s widow Taya granted NVision permission to use her husband’s rifle for the project, technicians went to work scanning the gun and collecting all the essential data on the rifle’s geometry, its precise shape and size - every dimension necessary to create an exact duplicate of the weapon.

The technicians used NVision’s handheld 3D laser scanner, which is both accurate and fast – and able to obtain dimensions from objects of almost any size and shape while capturing 60,000 measurements per second.

“I can only say that it was an extremely moving experience to be touching and holding the very rifle that had saved so many American lives in Iraq,” said Kersen. “Kyle’s weapon is a valuable personal and historical artifact, and we made sure it was treated with the utmost care while it was in our possession.”        

After about two hours of scanning, NVision technicians had captured all the fine details of the gun’s geometry. Then, a 3D computer model was created and used to make a replica of the gun to be placed with Marra’s statue of Kyle.

After the entire sculpture was rendered in clay, the image was transferred to molds and then cast in bronze by Schaefer Art Bronze Casting in Arlington, TX.  Subsequently, NVision scanned the entire bronze statue so that a digital version of it could be archived and replicated in the future. 

“After the scanning was completed, I had the privilege of speaking with Kyle’s widow and she thanked us for our participation in the statue project,” Kersen said. “Now, with the immediate success of American Sniper, I hope she realizes the appreciation and gratitude this country holds for the services rendered by her late husband, and all his fellow service members.”