Plastic Surgeon Turned Sculptor Creates Presidential Busts With RP
3D laser scanning, 3D printing and stereolithography help craft famous faces of the past.
by Susan Smith | Published February 12, 2009

The celebration of President’s Day this February may have more significance due to the inauguration of President Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States, adding him to the esteemed list of presidents occupying the Oval Office.

Dr. John Lanzalotti, a plastic surgeon and sculptor /owner of Williamsburg Sculpture, located in Williamsburg, Va., sculpts lifelike busts of the nation’s founding fathers, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert E. Lee, among others. His creativity is not limited to those chosen few, however, as he also sculpts Civil War figures and notables such as Patrick Henry, Meriwether Lewis, Marquis de Lafayette, as well as more recent public figures. Dr. Lanzalotti patterns his work after the style of Jean-Antoine Houdon, an 18th century French portrait sculptor who sculpted many well-known busts of early Americans. Like Houdon, Dr. Lanzalotti’s work is displayed in notable places. Featured in Virginia’s Capitol Building in Richmond is his life-size marble bust of Meriwether Lewis. Williamsburg sports the busts of William and Mary.

With the help of Direct Dimensions and rapid prototyping companies, Dr. Lanzalotti has been able to create precise replicas of his sculptures in different scales. Rapid prototyping 3D printing is used to create copies of smaller-scale 3D models. Patterns of cold-cast marble reproductions can be made of these smaller replicas, which are popular as collectibles in gift shops. Larger-scale busts can also be made from the 3D digital models in milled marble, cast bronze, and etched crystal.

Using his surgical skills, Dr. Lanzolotti adds detail to the famous faces on the computer.

"My art is a direct reflection of my medical training," sasys Dr. Lanzalotti. "Sculpting is like plastic surgery and computer sculpting is like digital surgery." Digital reproduction offers an accuracy that reduces the time an artist needs to spend hand-finishing.

According to Michael Raphael of Direct Dimensions, the busts were primarily laser scanned with an 8-ft., 7-axis Platinum FaroArm with either a Faro, Kreon, or Perceptron laser line scanner. PolyWorks, Rapidform, and Geomagic software are used to convert the digital scan “point cloud” data into clean, watertight STL files.

The 3D models are then scaled up or down for rapid prototyping. To make them smaller, ZCorp 3D printers are used primarily, and the larger ones are made using stereolithography, both of which are used as casting patterns for bonded marble or bronze casting.

More Info:
Direct Dimensions, Inc. (DDI)
Baltimore, MD

FARO Technologies, Inc.
Lake Mary, FLA

Opglabbeek, Limburg, Belgium

Plymouth, MI

Quebec, Canada

Seoul, Korea

Burlington, MA

Susan Smith is a contributing editor for Desktop Engineering magazine. She has been an editor and writer for the technology industry for more than 15 years and resides in Santa Fe, NM. Send email about this article to

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