3D Printering: Scanning 3D models

The Makerbot Digitizer was announced this week, giving anyone with $1400 the ability to scan small objects and print out a copy on any 3D printer.

Given the vitriol spewed against Makerbot in the Hackaday comments and other forums on the Internet, it should be very obvious the sets of Hackaday readers and the target demographic Makerbot is developing and marketing towards do not intersect. We’re thinking anyone reading this would rather roll up their sleeves and build a 3D scanner, but where to start? Below are a few options out there for those of you who want a 3D scanner but are none too keen on Makerbot’s offering.

The Makerbot digitizer is actually a pretty simple device. It’s just a turntable, camera, and a pair of laser diodes. This is something we’ve seen before with a DSLR and laser pointer as well as a digicam, laser level, and an old LP turntable. The hardware is just one part of this equation – a lot of the effort that goes into making a digital 3D object with this method is put into the capture algorithm. The builds above use everything from MATLAB to a Python script, all available for your perusal.

The ‘laser and camera’ method isn’t the only way to capture 3D objects. With the availability of small pico projectors, a few tinkerers have looked into structure light scanning. This method records several images of black and white bars projected onto an image. There are also several libraries that can take these images and turn them into something readable by Blender, with one of the most popular being the Structured Light library

Microsoft’s Kinect has also been used to great effect in the world of 3D printing; one of the best projects around is ReconstructMe, a tool that allows any computer with a Kinect to serve as a scanner that is at least as accurate as anything else. One problem, though: the ‘pro’ version of the software costs €180/$240 USD.

Of course all these solutions to the problem of scanning in 3D only work with relatively small projects. If you want to scan something bigger – a car or even a building – your best bet is probably something along the line of Kintinuous. This amazing application allows you to take a Kinect into the field and scan huge areas, turning them into a model that can be printed, or just a Counter Strike map.

It should be noted that neither the source nor binaries of Kintinous are available, thanks to a few restrictions placed on the researchers behind this awesome tool. The paper for Kintinous is available, and we’ve heard the researchers would be delighted if someone would take their technique and apply it to a functioning open source project.

25 thoughts on “3D Printering: Scanning 3D models

    1. 3D printers have been mainstream, but I’ll say more to that in a comment to the subject. Just wanted to say I never heard of mediamarkt so a goggled it. I had to laugh when I read according to Wikipedia how it’s slogan translates into other languages, as well it’s controversy creating advertizing. Yea I understand not never being a part of those cultures I can’t understand how those slogans fit into those cultures, but translated into English they are funny.

      1. The wikipedia translation is poor, their slogan is more “Because I’m not crazy am I”, indicating that going to other shops would cost you more and waste your money.
        In reality their prices aren’t that great for things that aren’t on sale, and the price of their cables is insane, and they even sell the infamous ‘monster cable’ and even more expensive ones than that, incredible as that sounds.

        Anyway they are sort of the best-buy for the world outside of the US.

  1. Yay for knowing your audience. Sometimes the comments are hostile not because of a generalized negative attitude, but because of the expectation for a sharing, ambitious attitude that is not present.

    Easy hacks are considered in a moderately negative light. Hacks or sub-optimal tools with high price-tags that give no insight or added benefit are even worse.

    What is liked best here is the same as any hacker community: clever ambition that is repeatable. Simpler, better, cheaper, more power, greater control, openness, rule of cool: these are the things that are this community’s virtues.

  2. Not to promote “the man”, but I noticed photogrammetry wasn’t mentioned. Autodesks 123DCatch and design tools are bad, and they’re free as well.

  3. search for fabscan – a working 3d scanner, open source and build on the master thesis of francis engelmann on the RWTH Aachen in Germany. Original Software was written for the mac, porting to windozz is currently in process.

    A fraction of the costs of the Mxxxxxx Digitizer, and with a little help and push on the software-side this thing IMHO will leave the MB Digitizer standing in the rain.

  4. Good article, and intuition on how we feel about it. Also thanks for doing the first bit of homework to get us started.

  5. Vitriol or not other demographics o f3D printers will intersect with hackers using 3D printers and history is a guide it will be sooner than later. 3D printers are already mainstream given all the 3D printed whatnot for sale, although they are nothing I’d buy, but what I’d buy is unimportant. Non-geek computer users intersecting with the geek computer users resulted in less expensive computer hardware for the geeks. The downsides of that computer interaction are fairly minor with many being simply annoyances, so hacker should be saying let the interaction begin. Ironically the cost of this scanner will spur open scanner designs, hopefully those involved don’t use draconian licensing that prevents commercial production.

  6. Agisoft makes Photoscan for $180 (standard version). The nice thing about Photoscan is you could be in the woods with only your cellphone and still capture a pretty good 3D model of something. Resolution is limited only by your optics. You could take pictures using a microscope and reconstruct the surface or use a DSLR and take pictures of a house.

    Downside to photogrammetry is that it is quite processor / GPU intensive.

  7. Makerbot goes closed source, takes ownership of their formerly open design community, and now releases a 3D scanner with an 800% markup. My god…Bre Pettis has been possessed by the ghost of Steve Jobs!

  8. Look up DAVID Laserscanner. It’s capable of scanning large things with either a handheld laser line projector or structured light projection and a single camera. It can also do turntable scanning with a line laser in a fixed mount. Some users have also done setups with the laser on a slow motorized panning or tilting mount.

    1. Indeed. “Dimensional accuracy” and “Detail resolution” are only 2.mm and 0.5 mm in Makerbot Digitizer, but matterform boasts 0.2 mm precision, which is almost what you can get out of a reprap 3d printer. (Though 0.1 or sub 0.1 mm would be even nicer when doing scans where you want mechanical compatibility.) Definitely going to my watch list.

      But, you can at least buy the Digitizer..

  9. My concern here is you won’t be able to scan interesting internals, right? So why can’t I just use my tried-and-true silicone-and-plastic method for this kind of copying? It works for keys, among other things.

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