Automatic 3D Scanning On The Cheap

After hearing about a few 3D object scanners, [Will] thought one of these tools could find a place in his workshop. The price of these scanners made him reconsider simply buying one, so he just made one out of parts that were sitting around. This was the first version of his 3D scanner. It worked, but there were a few shortcomings. [Will] had to rotate the object manually. That’s a cheap way of doing it, but the method is tedious.

Now [Will] is back for round two. He’s made some improvements, and this time a few bits of electronics automate the process, allowing [Will] to hit a button, walk away, and come back to a scanned object.

Even though [Will] has improved his setup immensely, the theory of how to scan an object remains the same. He’s projecting a straight vertical line on an object, taking a few snapshots with a webcam, and reconstructing the object with computer vision algorithms and Meshlab. The new additions include a BeagleBone Black, a stepper motor and an EasyDriver from Sparkfun, and a turntable.

[Will] wrote two scripts for this project. The first does the mechanical heavy lifting – turning the stepper motor and taking a picture, while the second converts the output from the webcam to a point cloud. From there, the point cloud is sent over to Meshlab, and an object appears on [Will]’s hard drive.

There’s about $80 in hardware invested in this setup, and considering the inspiration for this project was the $800 Makerbot Digitizer, we’re going to call [Will]’s experiments in 3D scanning a success.

24 thoughts on “Automatic 3D Scanning On The Cheap

    1. $80 in hardware if someone wants to duplicate it.

      as for how many hours of time, sometimes people do this as a hobby, enjoyment, just to see if they can. so if you really are that mad about him doing this and have to post comments like that go to reddit and do it there

      1. I just get tired of people saying they did X for “ONLY” $200 when it was $400 that you don’t count, $3000 worth of tools, 200 hours of work, $500 of stuff you already had so you don’t count that too and also untold amounts of previous skill and knowledge.

        1. Exactly. The worst are the people that claim that they bought a $2 item from Ebay, but don’t mention that they used a $600 PC, a $100 desk chair, and that it was delivered to their $250000 house in a $80000 truck.

    2. If the scale is consistent, this is worth at least $5k. Google NextEngine :P It definitely SMOKES 3D system’s “Sense” scanner. I bought that one and pretty much want to just throw it in the trash. :(

      … yeah I own one of the NextEngines. Had I seen this FIRST, I would have tried to implement it.

  1. Cool project, but can’t say I’m thrilled about the “donation” paywall his software is behind.

    It looks like he’s come up with some excellent tools for the 3D printing/scanning community, and I think he’d likely make more in donations from people who found his software useful than he will from people who were curious and forced to donate just to look at the software.

    1. You can download his software/notes for less than the price of a soda. I don’t know if I’d call that a “paywall.” But I agree it would be nice if you could somehow check it out before hand.

  2. Pay to play software, And that’s fine, but just so you know.
    You can pay as low as 50 cents though, if you are cheap, but for me it’s more about trusting my personal info on sites rather than the money.

  3. I recently built a simple scanner of this type from a stepper with a printed turntable, an Android phone / IOIO to take the photos, and a python script to reconstruct the point cloud. I found the single beam only worked well on rounded objects, with other shapes having a loss of detail in the shadowed region. Write up is here, including code.

    I am interested in a more capable scanner for more complex shapes – anyone have alternate approaches such as multiple am or more complex motion?


    HaDF (hackaday fail) to mention his intro about open source pay to download:

    “… I’m requesting that you make a financial contribution to download the files. Don’t worry, you cheap bastards! The minimum price is only 50 cents (I think). I prefer this over a fixed-cost model in that you can enter whatever amount you personally feel is fair and affordable.”

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