“I found the Sense scanner especially useful when I needed to understand historic bell profiles and shapes in order to recreate the form and thus, sound,” said Benjamin. “This technology allows me to interpret the complex geometry that goes into a bronze bell outside of conventional methods that are almost lost to time.”  

Benjamin Sunderlin started using the Sense 3D scanner in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame, studying foundry casting and Campanology (The study of bells). During that time he used the scan data to collect models and patterns for custom designs that would become part of his molding and bronze casting work.

3D Scanning a historic bell

“I found the Sense scanner especially useful when I needed to understand historic bell profiles and shapes in order to recreate the form and thus, sound,” said Benjamin. “This technology allows me to interpret the complex geometry that goes into a bronze bell outside of conventional methods that are almost lost to time.”  

Having finished his studies, Benjamin relocated to Glen Allen, Virginia in 2015 to start his own bellfoundry – the B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry.

“We are the only traditional bellfoundry in the US that utilizes traditional molding techniques with molding loam,” said Benjamin. “Although we are preserving the craft of traditional bellmaking with centuries old techniques, we also recognize that newer forms of technology are also needed. These allow for better control of certain methods and yet balance key processes that keep one foot firmly rooted in the past, and one in the future.”

3D scans of bells allows perfect reproduction of shape and sound

Benjamin uses the Sense 3D scanner to scan bells that are brought in for repair and renewal, saving the 3D data so it can be used as part of the new design or for archival purposes.

Since he founded his business, Benjamin has also been working with the Jamestown Rediscovery Team at Historic Jamestowne, VA. The archeological team on site recently discovered bell fragments from the original James Fort, and could be dated to the earliest period, c. 1607-1611. The Rediscovery team is having the fragments analyzed to determine the exact alloy of the bronze, and Benjamin is using 3D scans of key fragments of the bell to create a digital model of the bell in its entirety. The 3D scans are also being printed on Benjamin’s SLA printer for reconstruction. “Once all of this information in known, an exact replica of the bell could conceivably be made, allowing everyone to hear exactly what early inhabitants of the fort heard during time spent in worship, assembly, or as a warning against incoming attacks. We are very excited to be uncovering parts of our history through both traditional and newer forms of technology!” said Benjamin.

Bell production at B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry bell foundry in Glenn Allen VA