Carl Zeiss Optotechnik GmbH - Optische Messtechnik
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The Making Of the Virtual 3D Model of the BLERIOT XI

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Being a partner of Steinbichler Optotechnik GmbH, the French service company Metra, part of the Genaris group, was contracted by the “Musée des Arts et Métiers” in Paris to produce a photorealistic virtual 3D model of the Blériot XI, the first airplane ever to cross the channel between Calais and Dover in 1909.

On the one hand, the virtual model was used for a detailed technical analysis of the design of the Blériot XI. Wind tunnel simulations showed the aerodynamical behavior of the construction and three-dimensional measures could be taken of the model. The interaction of the steering mechanisms with the aerodynamical components of the plane could be simulated and animated. This added profound knowledge to the understanding of the construction and functioning of this airplane which at those days definitely was ahead of its time. On the other hand, the virtual model was used to produce advertising material for the opening of the special exhibition “L’avion de l’eploit – 1909, Louis Blériot traverse la manche” at the “Musée des Arts et Métiers”. The material was used to create photorealistic images and animations for the accompanying website, and furthermore, to produce educational videos showing the special technical features of this 100-year-old airplane.

Finally, the work resulted in a detailed 3D CAD model of the original Blériot XI which is important for cultural heritage and can also be used for the generation of exact copy plans of the original design.

The original Blériot XI is displayed in the “Musée des Arts et Métiers” in Paris. Metra used the Steinbichler COMET 5 and COMET IV white light scanning systems along with other hardware to scan the surface of the 100-year-old object. For understandable reasons it was not allowed to prepare the fragile surface or even to touch it. For referencing of the single images special reference frames were built up. A real challenge in 3D digitizing, however, the Metra team managed to scan the airplane within 3 days. Not only the wooden construction frame, but also the wings, the fuselage panels, the steering mechanism including control stick and hinges and the motor block with propeller were scanned with the COMET 5 in high resolution. Later, the data had been post processed to triangle mesh format (stl) using the COMETplus software.

Using different software tools the specialists at Metra then created the 3D CAD model based on the stl data. Reverse engineering techniques were used to transform the scanned freeform surfaces to mathematical nurbs surfaces.

The combination with 3D construction software tools which were used to integrate the wire construction and the functional behavior of the steering mechanism and the wheel suspension, finalized the creation of the virtual 3D model of the Bleriot XI. This model is fully functional and all moving parts like propeller, flaps, tail and trim rudders, wheels and wheel suspensions can be interactively moved and used for simulations and animations.

Furthermore, the 3D model was used for extensive technical analysis including wind tunnel simulations and investigations of the impact of the steering mechanism on the deformation of wings and the thus caused change of the aero dynamical flight behavior of the airplane.

The next step was to generate high-resolution renderings, animations and educational videos to support the marketing activities in advance to the opening of the exhibition. The following images show a few examples of the work performed and try to give an idea about the outstanding quality of the 3D scanning / 3D CAD and rendering data. The final results can also be seen on the official website of the museum (


Carl Zeiss Optotechnik GmbH
Georg-Wiesböck-Ring 12
83115 Neubeuern, Germany
+49 8035 8704 0

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