OpenScan 3D Scans All Of The (Small) Things

The OpenScan project has been updated quite a bit since its inception. OpenScan is an open source, Arduino or Raspberry Pi-based 3D scanner for small objects that uses 3D printed hardware and some common electronic components to create 3D scans using photogrammetry; a process by which a series of still images from different angles are used to create a 3D point cloud of an object, which can then be used to generate a 3D model.

Feature visualization overlays detected features onto the camera preview to help judge quality. Broadly speaking, green is good.

Photogrammetry is a somewhat involved process that relies on consistent conditions, so going through the whole process only to find out the results aren’t up to snuff can be tiresome. Happily, OpenScan offers some interesting new functions such as feature visualization via the web interface, which helps a user judge scan quality and make changes to optimize results without having to blindly cross their fingers quite so much. OpenScan remains a one-person project by [Thomas], who is clearly motivated to improve his design and we’re delighted to see it getting updates.

Embedded below is a video that walks through the installation and web interface. It’s a fairly long and comprehensive, but if you like you can skip directly to [Thomas] demonstrating the interface around the 8:22 mark, or watch it below. Interested in your own unit? [Thomas] has an e-shop for parts and the GitHub repository is right here; the project also has its own subreddit.

Photogrammetry isn’t limited to small objects. We have seen some neat applications in the past, where it was the missing link to modeling a custom control panel and making a 3d scan of a custom-molded ergonomic trackball.

21 thoughts on “OpenScan 3D Scans All Of The (Small) Things

    1. open != free to rip off

      Why shouldn’t a maker allow NON commercial use of his work but limit commercial rip-offs to 0? Makes perfect sense to me. It’s going to get pirated anyway.

      1. You can do that, but then you can’t call it open-source. You could put it under the GPL or CC-BY-SA though, many companies don’t want to distribute things using those as they would then have to open-source their own modifications

      2. No problem with that, but then he shouldn’t advertize his project as open-source, which is what is said on their website (“Open Hardware All of our developement is open-source, that anyone can use and improve it.”).

        Open-source hardware means anyone can study, modify, distribute, make and sell. See here for the definition : https://www.oshwa.org/definition/

        That’s very misleading.

        1. It is not misleading. Just because some random group of random people “defines” a term the way they want it to be understood does not mean that their definition (oshwa) is the only one or even the correct one. Instead, it’s a mere “plea to understand it this way”.

          Language is not defined by an association.

          “Open Source” means: The source is published openly. Period. “Open Source” says nothing about restrictions of using that source. Even if – over time – some “more or less general use of a term” becomes common understanding, you simply cannot expect everyone to accept that “common understanding”.

          As long as someone publishes the source openly, she’s doing “open source”. Even if NO use of that otherwise than studying and learning from it is allowed. Still open source. Independent from what “association” thinks.

          Imagine someone defines “vehicle” to be a Tesla electric car. And only a Tesla electric car. Nothing else but a Tesla electric car. That someone is “defining” this use of the term by putting up a website and doing some advertisement – nothing else. Would you accept this definition to be the “correct one”? Just because of what the Interweb says? Even with a Wikipedia article a “vehicle” does not mean “Tesla electric car”.

          Open Source is “vehicle”. The term says NOTHING about licensing. I have been doing Open Source since the 1970s and believe me: I don’t do “free”.

          1. Open-source has never only meant that the source is published openly, that’s called source-available software, you can look it up on Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source-available_software.

            That’s why for example Microsoft didn’t use the term open-source for their Shared Source Initiative, because some of their licences are open-source but others are only source-available software.

            And in the 70s you weren’t doing open-source, the term was coined in 1998, you simply shared your source code like many other programmers did at the time.

            You should read this page to get your history straight : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_free_and_open-source_software#Free_software_before_the_1980s

          2. @Thomas You can ignore the open source absolutists. They are happy to dictate others what to do / not to do when the shoe is on the other foot (GPL). Great project and thank you for sharing.

          1. Hi,
            and thank you very much for your thoughts and also the links. To be honest, I haven’t got any experience with licencing and the whole project is a learning experience for me. There have been so many first-time-ever things I had to do in this project (e.g. soldering, programming, arduino, raspberry pi, CAD, 3d printing … and even scanning). So everything takes a bit of time and energy…

            I am no experienced programmer/developer by any means and so far I focused on improving the hardware/software to the best of my abilities and did not bother looking into the weird world of IP/Copyright/Licencing. I did not know, that this was such a big issue and till this point I handled the whole situation like this: It takes only one direct message to clarify the situation and I usually respond within a day or so. There hasn’t been a single incident, where I neglected the use, when someone asked.

            Just recently there has been a Chinese knock-off of the arduino-compatible version of the scanner, without any prior contact between me and those people. This is currently bothering my quite a bit. Not because someone uses the design, but it is just a plain copy (with even some major errors of an earlier version). What bothers me is, that I will have to do the support and that those issues will fall back to me and my limited time.

            As it seems Oshwa has a couple of licencing options and I have no idea and honestly no time/energy to dig into this subject. If there seem to be quite a few educated opinions here, feel free to share your thoughts and experience with me and I will update the website/design/code licence accordingly.

            One last note: I have been spending a lot of my private time in this project and always asking for help of the community. When it comes to issues/problems the voices are always loud, but when it comes to help and contribution, there is almost no one left. As more and more of my time is going to this project, I am still not sure how I can handle this issue

  1. Can anyone recommend hardware capable of running meshlab? I am almost entirely a use old retired computers for everything person, and am struggling to find a motherboard capable of supporting an nvidia graphics card capable of running CUDA capable of running meshlab.
    Thanks for any advice.

    1. You probably mean Meshroom? (Meshlab is a software for modifying pointclouds and meshes, which I think runs without Cuda).
      As photogrammetry is really ressource-hungry, old computers will always take quite some time. Meshroom needs Cuda, but there are other free alternatives available, for instance: VisualSFM, MVE or Regard3D. I really like VisualSFM, as it is relatively fast and even runs on my old cheapo notebook. Anyway, an imageset of 300photos of the picamera will then take 5-12h to calculate…

  2. @Thomas/OpenScan I’ll answer here since I can’t reply to your last comment.

    > Just recently there has been a Chinese knock-off of the arduino-compatible version of the scanner, without any prior contact between me and those people. This is currently bothering my quite a bit.

    That’s because your project is advertised as open-source, and that’s the spirit of it. People can reuse your work without any constraint and without even contacting you. If you don’t want that to happen, remove the open-source mention on your website.

    > Not because someone uses the design, but it is just a plain copy (with even some major errors of an earlier version).

    Then it’s bothering you. With open-source there is no difference between other people using your work or selling it.

    > What bothers me is, that I will have to do the support and that those issues will fall back to me and my limited time.

    You are under no obligation to handle support for products not sold by you, it has nothing to do with the license, you can simply explain that clearly on your website if that bothers you.

    > If there seem to be quite a few educated opinions here, feel free to share your thoughts and experience with me and I will update the website/design/code licence accordingly.

    If you don’t want other people selling your design, remove the open-source mention on your website and express clearly that the design is protected by copyright. If you don’t mind people selling your design, then you can keep the license as open-source and remove the non-commercial clause on Thingiverse.

    > When it comes to issues/problems the voices are always loud, but when it comes to help and contribution, there is almost no one left. As more and more of my time is going to this project, I am still not sure how I can handle this issue.

    If you keep your project open-source and publish everything, people will come and contribute if they are interested. But since your design has a non-commercial clause on Thingiverse, many tinkerers won’t be interested in contributing, as illustrated by the first comment in this article.

    That’s basically how open-source got created in the first place, releasing creator rights to encourage contribution from others.

      1. What has this to do with trolling ?

        I’ve never said that open-source is public domain and neither that copyright doesn’t stand with open-source. I’ve been using and contributing to open-source software for more than 20 years so I know a thing or two about the subject.

        He asked a question about what to do, I simply explained what are his options. He can chose whatever option suits him best, because in the current state there is a contradiction between the license advertised on Thingiverse and the one on his website.

        Talking about attitude, I’m civil in all my posts, no need for ad hominem arguments.

        1. “If you don’t want other people selling your design, remove the open-source mention on your website and express clearly that the design is protected by copyright.”

          So what is that then? You are saying either open source or copyright.

          The attitude is how you present your opinion. I think you were way too harsh.

          And i disagree with you, open source/HW can be something that is not BSD licensed and you can limit especially the commercial aspect of it.

          1. No, I’m saying either open-source (and copyrighted) or only copyrighted, meaning it’s neither open-source nor public domain.

            I don’t think I’ve been harsh, I’m always polite and I don’t judge people. I present facts and errors in facts. That may sound insensitive and a bit robot-like, I can concede it.

            Open-source hardware has a very precise definition, given multiple times on this thread in other comments and which makes sense.

            In the Open-Source Hardware FAQ you can read this about the subject :

            “If you place a non-commercial restriction on your hardware design, other people don’t have the same freedom to use the design in the ways that you can. That means, for example, that if you and someone else both release designs with non-commercial licenses, neither of you can make and sell hardware that builds on both of your designs. Rather than contributing to a commons of hardware designs for everyone to build on, you’re limiting others to a very narrow range of possible uses for your design.”

            “In particular, because making hardware invariably involves money, it’s very difficult to make use of a hardware design without involving some commercial activity. For example, say a group of friends wanted to get together and order ten copies of a hardware design – something that’s often much cheaper than each person ordering their own copy. If one person places the order and the others pay him back for their share, they’d probably be violating a non-commercial restriction. Or say someone wants to charge people to take a workshop in which they make and keep a copy of your hardware design – that’s also commercial activity. In general, there are just very few ways for someone to use a hardware design without involving some sort of commercial activity.”

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