USS Arizona 3D Printed. Source: Autodesk
USS Arizona 3D Printed. Source: Autodesk

On Memorial Day, Autodesk announced that they are using the latest digital survey tools—from laser scanners to subsea LiDAR—to digitally map the USS Arizona in order to create a 3D model. The National Parks Service and Autodesk have partnered to memorialize the USS Arizona in a way never done before. The model will be available online to everyone.

“We did that using several kinds of sonar: multibeam scan sonar mounted to the [survey] vessel, a diver-portable multibeam unit, a stationary sonar," Pete Kelsey, Strategic Projects Executive at Autodesk, explained. "On the laser side we had a traditional terrestrial laser scanner to do the memorial—the actual building—inside and out. We actually found some folks in Colorado that make a laser scanner that works underwater [designed for deepwater oil well inspection]."

Last year a team of divers, including National Parks Service employee and historian Daniel Martinez, spent time scanning the wreckage and artifacts around the ship. "To see it in a three dimensional model, that's the kind of thing that will connect with not only the young and the old, but anyone who comes to this site," said Martinez.

Martinez tagged a cooking pot while on an earlier dive. The pot, along with a Coke bottle, have sat on the ship’s galley for the past 72 years. The artifacts were 3D scanned and then replicated using a 3D printer. Each physical model featured intricate details and were 3D printed in full color. You can see the barnacles now present on the cooking pot.  

“This technological approach helps make the USS Arizona’s legacy come alive that just wasn’t possible before,” said National Park Service Superintendent Paul DePrey. “The USS Arizona is one of America’s most revered historical sites. As its steward, the National Park Service has a mission to share the story of December 7 with current and future generations. Creating 3D models allows people to see and touch these highly detailed and accurate replicas, something that will play an important role in our educational outreach program.”

The 3D-printed model of the cooking pot was presented to Don Stratton, one of only nine USS Arizona survivors still alive. Stratton was just 19 when Pearl Harbor was attacked and he suffered burns over 65 percent of his body. He was lucky to be alive. “That is amazing, said Stratton. “I don’t know anybody in the galley that survived that day. At the time of the explosion, it was self-preservation. After that, it was extremely hard to return. Now, when I go back and remember, it’s a little easier. I think it [3D artifacts] will make an impression on a lot of people, I really do.”

The goal of the project is to connect younger generations with the site, wherever they are in the world. The scanning project also helps to preserve the site and to determine if there are any changes in the ship. The models will be accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

"We could move forward with a virtual museum. We could take the artifacts that we have in the museum and intertwine that with what we have for the ship", said Martinez. "I think it will connect with young people who will be able to visit the memorial and the Arizona wherever they are in the world."

The entire 3D model of the Arizona should be done by the end of the year and will be available online.