Project Spotlight: 3D Scanning of Footwear Impressions

By Isobel Williams, MSc Forensic Science student

For my master’s research project, I wanted to investigate the potential use of 3D scanning technology in order to aid in the recovery of forensic footwear evidence. The use of 3D scanning technology has been implemented across a variety of forensic science disciplines including crime scene reconstruction and forensic anthropology. It was my aim to consider the capabilities of this technology with regards to the recovery of forensic evidence. In order to demonstrate the potential of 3D scanning technology when recovering forensic evidence, I compared the level of accuracy of traditional casting recovery methods with 3D structured light scanning recovery methods. Modern 3D scanners, like the one that was used throughout my project are easy to use, fast and relatively portable. Additionally, they allow evidence to be recovered in a non-destructive manor which is not possible with traditional casting methods. Although throughout my research I only considered the recovery of footwear marks in mud, it may be possible to apply 3D scanning methods to recover footwear marks in a variety of different substrates including snow. My research has introduced me to the wide range of benefits and capabilities of 3D scanning technology in the recovery of forensic footwear evidence. Further research could also consider the use of 3D scanning technology for the recovery of other forensic evidence types, not just footwear impression evidence. 3D scanning technology could really have benefit with regard to the recovery of a range of different forensic evidence types!

It would not have been possible to undertake my research without the help and guidance of the LFSA. The LFSA were able to put me into contact with Create Education who demonstrated and allowed me to use their 3D scanning technology throughout my project. Additionally, the LFSA provided me with the resources, materials and laboratory space in order to conduct the practical aspects of my project. Additionally, whilst undertaking my Masters in Forensic Science at UCLAN, we were able to spend a week at the LFSA where we further developed our skills and knowledge of crime scene investigation and forensic evidence collection techniques. This experience was truly a highlight of studying my Master’s degree. The knowledge and insight that I had gained throughout this week has driven me to seriously consider a career in crime scene investigation. It was really insightful to hear first-hand experiences of working as a crime scene instigator, which again would not have been possible without the LFSA.