Transform Finds from Nature into Keepsakes with 3D Scanning and 3D Printing

by David Arena

So Much Better Than a Photo

“Blew out my flip-flop, stepped on a pop top …” Oops! That’s Jimmy Buffet’s beach story!

Far from the “lost shaker of salt” and frozen concoctions of “Margaritaville,” I found serendipitous inspiration during a walk on a local Pacific Northwest beach in Port Ludlow, Washington. If you have been fortunate enough to walk on an ocean beach and smell the sea air, sand between your toes, the bonus is usually finding broken sand dollars, shells, and whatever else has washed up on shore.

Lucky Day

One day I was very lucky and was once again reminded of the beauty and design found in nature. I discovered a scallop shell completely intact, a rare find.

Normally I don’t take things from the beach, but this was perfect and I had to have it. A little further down the beach, my luck continued as I discovered a fairly large cluster of barnacles and a perfect sea snail shell.

As I marveled at nature’s wisdom the utilitarian light bulb went off in my head. What once was a four-unit condo for my barnacle buddies was now … a candle holder! Yes! The scallop shell could be a purse, or a dish to hold candy or jewelry—the sea snail shell could become decorative lights—the possibilities are endless! All of the items I’d found could be 3D scanned, modified, and 3D printed to re-purpose them into usable items, keepsakes, or gifts.

After scanning the items with a HandySCAN 3D, I edited them in Geomagic Design X to fill all the holes and make modifications, like adding a new hinge to the scallop shell and holes for the candle holder and sizing the snail shells to create really cool lights.

Nature Inspired 3D Scanned and 3D Printed

So next time you take a stroll down a mountain trail or go off the grid, keep your eyes peeled for interesting items along the way that can provide inspiration and spark your imagination.

And, the best part: After this process of repurposing nature’s beauty into keepsakes, you can return your finds to nature for someone else to enjoy.


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