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3D sculpture scanning reinforces massive Russian war memorial

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3D sculpture scanning and printing perfected the design of a twenty-five-meter-tall bronze statue commemorating the 2.3 million dead and wounded soldiers lost in the Battles of Rzhev, which took place between January 1942 and March 1943. The sculptor, Andrey Korobtsov, and his architect partner, Konstantin Fomin, enlisted Thor3D’s scanning technology, which allowed the engineering team to work with him to replicate a scale model for wind tunnel testing using 3D printing. The sculpture stands in place as of March 31, 2020.

The Rzehv monument
The Rzehv monument

Rzhev is a town situated on the uppermost part of the Volga River 230 kilometers east of Moscow. The town played a crucial strategic role in the fight for Moscow during the Second World War as an anchor for the Rzhev-Vyazma Salient. The German army penetrated Russian defenses around Moscow in 1942 to establish a heavily fortified position around Rzhev, which threatened to turn the northern flank of Moscow’s defenses if the Russian line failed.

In tactics similar to those employed at the Battle of Stalingrad, Soviet forces flowed into the area in waves to first slow the German occupation, then to cut German forces off from their supply lines. The Soviet death toll rose sharply due to ill preparation, lack of equipment and disease.

Hence the erection of a stunning statue to commemorate this human sacrifice. The sculptor’s work stands on a ten-meter mound. It is supported by a metal frame. Cranes in flight—an emblem of fallen soldiers across Russian memorials—replaced the soldier’s legs and lower tunic.

The statue’s exposed underside, along with the negative space between cranes required additional wind tunnel modeling. The designers wanted to ensure that no noise pollution would be caused by wind passing through the structure. Engineers were also worried about the structure’s stability, given its weight. The site chosen for this statue was located on swampy soil beset by high winds. Engineers wanted to ensure structural stability in these conditions.

Technician conducting 3D sculpture scanning
Technician conducting 3D sculpture scanning

Thor3D scanned the artist’s scale model in his workshop using the handheld Drake scanner. Regular top-to-bottom digitization captured the two-meter-tall sculptor’s model. The scan was split into two parts to account for the complex supporting structure. Thor’s scanning software received data from the scanner on-site; its software joined the halves. ZBrush allowed technicians to refine the computer model.

A 3D printer replicated the refined design. This new model underwent extensive wind tunnel tests to ensure structural stability. Noise testing also ensured that the wind would not cause unseemly howling.

The sculpture was finally produced after three years of design and verification. The sculptor and architect built the sculpture in three sections cast in bronze before on-site assembly.

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