3D scanners don’t have to be expensive or high-tech because all of the magic goes on in software. The hardware setup just needs to gather a bunch of cross-sections. In perhaps the lowest-tech of scanners that we’ve seen, [yenfre]’s GotMesh scanner uses milk.
Specifically, the apparatus is a pair of boxes, one with a hole drilled in it. You put the object in the top box and fill it with milk to cover the object. A camera takes pictures of the outline of the object in the milk as it drains out the hole, these get stitched together, and voilà.
There are limitations to this method. The object gets soaked in milk, so it won’t work for scanning sand-castles. (It’s optimally suited for chocolate-chip cookies, in our opinion.) If the camera is located directly above, the objects have to get wider as the milk drains out. You can do multiple takes with the object rotated at different angles or use multiple cameras to solve this problem. The edge-detection software will have issues with white objects in milk, so maybe you’ll want to scan that porcelain figurine in coffee, but you get the idea. More seriously, the rate of milk drain will slow down a bit as the amount of milk in the upper box decreases. This could also be handled in software.
In all, we’re not surprised that we don’t see commercial versions of this device, but we love the idea. It’s based on this experiment where they dip a guy in a tank of ink! If you just drank all your milk, but still have a line-laser lying around, maybe this build is more your speed. What’s your cheapest 3D scanner solution?