Cultural heritage meets cutting-edge technology

14 February 2024

The University of Sheffield AMRC, in partnership with PES Scanning, has supported a major restoration project at Wentworth Woodhouse that will help preserve its 18th century Germanicus statue for generations to come and open up new ways to raise vital funds for the stately home. 

Wentworth Woodhouse, near Rotherham in South Yorkshire, is the longest and one of the grandest stately homes in the UK, and is run by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust. The centuries-old Germanicus statue is of huge cultural significance and value to the home as it was commissioned by the Second Marquess of Rockingham in the 1750s and created by the same artist who made sculptures for the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome. 

The Trust has embarked on an ambitious project to repair and preserve the Germanicus; using reverse-engineering technology to create a highly-accurate digital blueprint of the statue so that not only can it be recreated should it ever get seriously damaged, but also to explore creating miniature replicas that can be sold to raise vital funds for the large-scale restoration of the home.

To do this, the Trust collaborated with PES Scanning and the AMRC, a member of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult network. The company, which is part of Performance Engineered Solutions (PES) Ltd, based close to the AMRC on Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham, was responsible for 3D scanning Germanicus and optimising the digital ‘point cloud’ model that was created of the statue.

AMRC SME senior engineer, Phil Yates, holding one of the three miniature replicas of the Germanicus statue.

A hand-held 3D laser scanner was used to capture the detail of the statue to an accuracy of 0.020 mm and resolution capability of 0.01mm. The scanner works by projecting lines of laser light onto the surface of the statue while 2 sensor cameras continuously record the changing distance and shape of the laser lines in three dimensions as it sweeps over the statue, taking up to 1.6 million measurements per second. 

Once the individual measurement points are captured, specialist software meshes the points into surfaces. The meshing process calculates how the points relate to each other in order to join them together into surfaces.

These joined up points are called point clouds which once created can be loaded into CAD platforms to enable items to be used in a number of ways, for example to be redrawn for reverse engineering or design optimisation. They can also be used as in this case for 3D printing.

Nathan Bailey, metrology applications engineer at PES Scanning said: “PES scanning provides metrology and 3D scanning services for a range of different industries from aerospace to construction. We’re using data capturing technology to address the heritage challenges of today from restoration to preservation. The technology allows us to visualise how these items or buildings were back when they were originally built and it helps us restore them if needed to their former glory.

“As a company that is constantly looking to expand the horizons and the areas that we work in, this project with the AMRC and Wentworth Woodhouse is a fantastic opportunity and we were very excited to be a part of it.”

The AMRC’s design experts then used the scans to 3D-print three miniature replicas, which weigh 348 grams and stand at just 29 cm tall - a fraction of the height of the real Germanicus which is 180 cm tall. 

Suzanna Mitchell, project engineer at the AMRC, said: “The replicas were manufactured using our Photocentric LC Magna 3D Printer, which is capable of creating large, high-detail, low-cost parts. This polymer AM technology uses an LCD Mask approach to fully expose each print layer instantly, allowing us to produce 3 statues in 31 hours. 

“The print files were optimised and internal/external supports were applied to ensure the fine features were printed successfully; the support was then removed after printing. Without the availability of this technology, the replicas could have been much more difficult to produce with potentially higher costs and lower detail.”

Dr Phil Yates, SME senior engineer at AMRC integrated manufacturing group, said: “Wentworth Woodhouse is gearing up for a major restoration of its site and artefacts and to be able to contribute to it, is a matter of great pride for the AMRC.”

He added: “The collaboration gave us the opportunity to implement our design and prototyping expertise for the benefit of a national heritage organisation of great cultural significance, while also turning the spotlight on how nurturing and guiding young manufacturing talent is at the heart of the AMRC’s mission.”

AMRC Training Centre apprentice, Harry Howson helped scan and digitise the statue.

The project not only connected the two dots of cultural heritage and technology, but also highlighted the role of future young generations in preserving our history and the importance of equipping them with technical skills. 

The University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre apprentice, Harry Howson, who works for PES Scanning, helped scan and digitise the statue. PES Scanning metrology engineer, Nathan Bailey, added: “This project was a fantastic and exciting opportunity for our apprentice, Harry, to really get his teeth stuck into the world of 3D scanning and metrology and within a project that’s quite interesting and outside of the usual traditional engineering situations that we see.”

Talking about his experience, Harry said: “I'm an apprentice at PES Performance and I've just completed my first year of studies at the AMRC Training Centre. Coming from a family of engineers, I understand the importance of experience within the engineering field. 

“I decided to choose the apprenticeship route which allowed me to have the best of both worlds, through the University as well as while working full-time at PES Performance. At the end of it, I'm also debt free which is a major bonus for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this project as I got to see the full cycle of it and the final products at the end, which usually one doesn’t get to see.”

Steve Ash, digital projects manager at Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust says The Trust is looking at a range of ways in which the scans of Germanicus m could be used to create merchandise that could be sold in the Wentworth Woodhouse shop. 

He said: “Under consideration at the moment are ideas to sell small, museum-quality replicas of Germanicus, either as statues or as bookends. We may also create confectionary lines using the scans to create edible versions of the statue.

“The use of digital technologies at Wentworth Woodhouse is still in its early stages, but there’s no doubt that it will have an important role to play in both conservation and entrepreneurialism. The project collaboration with the AMRC and PES Scanning has shown the possibilities that lie ahead, and we are very much looking forward to continuing collaborating together.” 

Phil added: “Technology today is developing rapidly and it has the potential to not only make a better tomorrow but also to preserve, conserve and restore the past. Using the technology at the AMRC and PES Scanning to create a model of the Germanicus statue is the first step towards this. And we hope to use our technical expertise for many such avenues, and continue our collaboration with The Trust.”

History of the Germanicus statue

The white-marble statue of Germanicus that now resides in the grand Pillared Hall in Wentworth Woodhouse was commissioned in Rome by the Second Marquess of Rockingham in the 1750s. The statue was sculpted by Filippo Della Valle, who also made sculptures that can be seen on the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The magnificent Germanicus statue that currently resides at Wentworth Woodhouse.

Germanicus was an immensely successful ancient Roman General and politician, and he was hugely popular in his day. He was the father of the emperor Caligula and the older brother of the emperor Claudius and was regarded by many as being the ‘ideal’ Roman. 

The statue of Germanicus originally arrived at the House in the 1760s, however it was moved to the Camellia House in 1902. In the mid-twentieth century,  the roof at Camellia House failed, allowing water into the building which poured over the statues which explains the dirty appearance of Germanicus.

Following the disrepair of the Camellia House, Germanicus returned to the Wentworth Woodhouse in the 1980s, where he took his current position. However important the statue of Germanicus is, there’s no denying that it is in less than ideal condition and it needs to be conserved and protected.

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