By Susan Fraser -November 11,2020
For the Ultimate Sacrifice, Only the Perfect Replica Will Do
For Veteran’s Day we would like to honor those who have served, and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Your service is important to us. It is why in 2016 we contributed to the creation of a special memorial alongside Tyler Fraser, CEO of UPD Urns in Virginia for a group of fallen heroes.
The chopping blades of the helicopter were cut short. A fight between United States soldiers and insurgents in southern Afghanistan ended in a fiery crash that claimed the lives of seven Americans on August 16, 2012. After the dust settled, survivors began the difficult work of removing the soldiers’ bodies and preparing for their final rest. They chose a battle cross to memorialize the fallen fighters with the tools they used to protect themselves.
What Is a Battle Cross?
In decades past, when wars had extremely high death counts and literally thousands of fallen lay across a field, the battle cross held a practical use. Medics combed the fields looking for wounded who survived after the battle concluded.
They took the deceased soldiers’ rifles and placed them into the ground with their helmets on top. The battle cross served as the first memorial a soldier would receive. In recent history, the bodies of soldiers are carefully returned from war to their families at home. The battle cross became a symbolic observation for the slain warriors. The boots, rifle, helmet and other items of the soldier are displayed as a personal and unique tribute.
A Timeless Commemoration
The battle cross is often made of the actual equipment used by the soldier, not generic copies. However, the materials for these tools are not intended to maintain their condition in all weather. Many manufacturers have sought to build the battle cross as a monument that will stand the test of time. Bronze is the metal of choice, for its color and hardy makeup. There are many approaches to this type of sculpture. In the past, some have chosen to bronze the equipment itself, to protect it from wear and allow it to last longer. However, if it is not done carefully, bronzing shoes and other soft materials can flake or peel. Recent developments in technology allow for a better choice.
Tyler Fraser believed there was a way to create a true replica without having to treat the equipment, but by using 3D printing. Special forces in Southern California asked him to come to Naval Base Coronado near San Diego, CA.
They wanted Tyler to help them conceive and construct a memorial using the battle cross of Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Soldier Sean Carson, who died in that helicopter crash of 2012. Tyler brought his 3D scanner and made a 3D image of Carson’s battle cross, which also sits in memoriam in Coronado. With his expertise in 3D scanning and printing, Tyler was able to design a memorial that was built in bronze.
The sculpture is so accurate and true to life that people who come to see it in Coronado can compare the sculpture to the original. It is spot-on, down to the damage on the helmet. Set before a granite monument, the sculpture memorializes the sacrifice of Carson and three other fallen soldiers–Christopher Mosko, Chad Regelin and Nicholas Wilson.
3D Scanning for Perfect Replication
The trouble with creating a replica using old methods is s the possibility that the construction will be inaccurate in some fashion. 3D scanning removes most of the guesswork out of creating a three-dimensional image from an object or person. Pictures in two dimensions often make scale difficult to estimate.
The 3D scanner creates a pattern of images surrounding the object, which are turned into a digitized image used in the design and creation of replicas. Their uses range from the creation of new products to the process of historic preservation. Most 3D scanners are large enough for small objects or even people, while some 3D scanners are able to scan vehicles, airplanes and even buildings.
How Does 3D Scanning Ensure the Perfect Memorial?
Technology in sculpture has changed significantly. Decades ago, a sculpture of a famous person might look nothing like them. Using a 3D scanner and a 3D printer, ensures that the sculpture looks precisely as it should. The scanner builds the image and the printer puts the layers of material one on top of the other to build the sculpture. It is sent to a bronze maker and preserved perfectly for the entire world to see. After this memorial was displayed in Coronado, Tyler went to Virginia to create another battle cross sculpture for the Boulder Crest Retreat.
Digitized Images, Unlimited Options
With the technology now perfected, it becomes obvious how this practice leads to memorials replicated in all shapes and sizes. While it is possible to create a replica that is the same size, there are other options to consider. The digitized image allows for adjustment of scale, and the 3D printer may accommodate a wide variety of kinds of material.
In The Light Urns, in partnership with Tyler, offers a series of battle cross pendant cremation urns in gold, silver and steel. Each pendant holds a tiny amount of ashes and may be worn as a necklace. Since the pendants are based on the original image from the 3D scanner, they are a true but much smaller copy of Sean Carson’s real battle cross.
Remembering a Life in 3D
Although inanimate objects are a common source of inspiration for 3D printing technology, there is plenty of opportunity to capture a person’s likeness in 3D for future memorials. Living people and animals may be safely scanned, and the 3D image can be saved for later use in the creation of a cremation urn. The result is a design that is far from a simple artist’s interpretation, but showing a person full of life and personality. It is exact and provides a fitting memorial for anyone worthy of remembrance.
The original battle crosses were not intended to be a permanent memorial, but has become so in recent periods of war and loss. Although the fallen soldier’s final artifacts are not meant to last, a bronze memorial created in their image will withstand the elements for many decades to come. Modern 3D scanning technology and the use of 3D printing culminates in the ability to design and generate an honest replica of any 3D object, living or passed.