3D Printed MacFarlane Stone. Source: WhiteClouds
3D Printed MacFarlane Stone. Source: WhiteClouds

Preston McFarland is passionate about family history and has discovered a unique and effective way to share an important part of his ancestry. Through photogrammetry and 3D printing, McFarland has recreated the MacFarlane Stone, which was originally carved by his Scottish ancestors in 1612.

“Photogrammetry combined with 3D printing is an incredibly special technology which can be used to permanently capture and preserve the real world,” said McFarland. “3D printing has allowed me to bring some of that homeland and history back with me. This makes it easier for people to discover, understand, and fall in love with their heritage. They can now hold in their hand a scaled reproduction of a building or some other artifact.”

McFarland spent two weeks in Scotland studying his ancestry, and in particular, the buildings they left behind. He contacted the University of Glasgow School of Art and they introduced him to the 3D heritage project and the technique of using photogrammetry to preserve archeological sites and monuments.

In photogrammetry, many photographs are taken from various angles. The images are then “stitched” together to create a 3D model. McFarland used a camera to take the photographs and then put the images together in Agisoft software. The process took about 60 hours to complete.

Once the 3D model was complete, he took the files to WhiteClouds where they were prepared for 3D printing and printed in full color on a ProJet 660Pro. The 3D printer uses a gypsum-based powder and builds the object layer by layer—adding the color and liquid binding agent as it goes. The completed part has a sandstone-like texture.

McFarland said this was a way to tie something physical with all of the stories his family has heard and read about his ancestors. He said the 3D printed replica makes it possible to share with everyone who is interested without having to make the expensive trip to Scotland. WhiteClouds did two prints of the stone—a 4-inch version and a 10-inch version.       

“Even more importantly, it creates a permanent record that will be invaluable in the centuries to come,” said McFarland. “Long after the original has crumbled into dust or been destroyed, my descendants will be able to reproduce and handle this part of their story.”

The original MacFarlane Stone is 4’ x 6’ and is in the wall of the Luss Church. While the church has been rebuilt three times, each time the stone has been included in the construction.