UW Makerspace shares this year’s strangest scans

This year has been a weird one, that’s for sure. COVID-19 has taken its toll on all of us, even though it meant attending lectures in pajamas was acceptable. Despite the in-person hiatus, the UW Makerspace still received its fair share of projects from eager students and UW-Madison community members, especially when it came to our 3D-scanning equipment. Even during a pandemic, people are looking to take advantage of our cutting-edge technology and skilled staff. So while you’ve been at home trying to get the most bang for your buck on that Netflix subscription, we’ve been hard at work scanning all sorts of projects. Here are some of the coolest, weirdest, and most impressive 3D scans we’ve had recently.


Makerspace staff member Katelyn Miller scanning the Chrysalis

Monarch Chrysalis

We’re used to scanning machine parts and inanimate objects, but rarely do we get the honor of scanning things that are, well, alive! This monarch chrysalis was harvested from a nearby Madison prairie and was scanned to make 3D replicas for research purposes. After the scan, our staff member Katelyn Miller was even allowed to keep it until it hatch. It was eventually released into the wild, though I think it would have made a good mascot, don’t you think?


A digital recreation of a segment using our 3D scanning technology.

900-Year-Old Wooden Vessel

We may have the most cutting-edge equipment, but that doesn’t always mean we use it on cutting edge objects. The State Historical Society of Wisconsin approached us with segments of a charred, wooden vessel that is over 900 years old! They were originally found at Aztalan in 1964, and as you can imagine, they are much too delicate to be studied hands-on. To help alleviate the issue, the Makerspace stepped in and created 3D scans of the segments so historians could study them more closely and try and fit them back together. Pretty cool if you ask us!


A look at the engine bay that was used for the project. Doesn’t look easy to scan!

Snowmobile Engine Bay

Ever want a snowmobile that was quieter and had reduced emissions? Well the Society of Automotive Engineers sure does, which is why they issued a challenge to young engineers-to-be to make it happen. As you might imagine, a challenge like this is perfect for Badgers, though COVID restrictions make it difficult to work on. To make the process run smoother, the staff at the Makerspace 3D scanned the entire engine bay of a snowmobile so other UW engineers could work on the project remotely. It may sound like a lot of work, but keeping the engineering spirit alive during the pandemic is what the Makerspace is all about.


Pretty crazy stuff, right? It may be tempting to think the fiasco we call 2020 is responsible for all these unusual projects, but the truth is we see cool stuff like this all the time. If you’d like to be part of our crew and experience these ventures for yourself, consider applying for a position at the Makerspace here. If not, no sweat! We’ll still be here to fill you in on the happenings of the UW Makerspace, no matter if we’re still trapped at home or not!