Pseudomorph Modeling


In this project, Simpleware software was used as part of an artistic study focusing on the completion of geological processes through new technology. The aim was to create a pseudomorph, an object that maintains its original shape whilst over time changing its inner materiality. The pseudomorph in this project represented a snail that had become fossilised as an air void within the Jurassic Coast’s rockbed over millions of years. High-powered CT technology and Simpleware software was used to visualise the microstructure of Portland roach stone and to extract a mesh of the air void suitable for 3D printing as a new object.


  • CT scanning of a rock
  • Segmentation of a single pseudomorph from volumetric image data in Simpleware ScanIP
  • Generation of a detailed surface mesh in Simpleware +FE
  • Export of an STL file for 3D printing
  • 3D printed model placed on display at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad by the Sea alongside the original rock

Thanks to

Richard Boardman • Mark Mavrogordato • Simon Ryder • Ian Sinclair
μ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre (University of Southampton)artNucleus

Image Acquisition and Processing

Initial scans of the rock containing the preserved airspace were made using the large-scale, high-power CT scanning facilities at the u-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre. The inside of the rock was reconstructed and analysed to extract a single pseudomorph, before being trivially labelled using Simpleware ScanIP. The resulting isolated pseudomorph void could then be exported as a mesh suitable for 3D printing.

Mesh and Model Generation

A detailed mesh was generated from the segmented image data using Simpleware module +FE. The millions of triangles required for this process posed no difficulties for the software, resulting in a high-quality surface mesh with conforming interfaces that did not require further processing. An STL file was obtained that matched the boundary between the airspace and the rock.

3D Printing

The STL file created using Simpleware software was exported to a 3D printing process and produced at a size several times larger than the original CT data. This approach allowed for a more mesoscopic model to be created. Epoxy-fixed powder was used to create the final model, which was placed on display at the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad by the Sea alongside the original rock. Using Simpleware ScanIP therefore streamlined the CT to 3D printing workflow, allowing robust, high-quality models to be generated for 3D print work.