3D Objects Without Scanning

There are many scanners — both commercial and homemade — that can take a variety of scans or images of a 3D object and convert it into something like a 3D printable file. When the process works, it works well, but the results can be finicky at best and will require a lot of manual tuning. According to [Samuel Garbett], you might as well just draw your own model using Blender. He shows you how using a Red Bull can which, granted, isn’t exactly the most complicated thing ever, but it isn’t the simplest either.

He does take one photo of the can, so there is a camera involved at some point. He also takes measurements using calipers, something you probably already have laying around.

Since it is just a can, there aren’t many required pictures or measurements as, say, a starship model. Once you have the measurements, of course, you could use the tool of your choice and since we aren’t very adept with Blender, we might have used something we think is easier like FreeCAD or OpenSCAD. However, Blender has a lot of power, so we suspect making the jump from can to the USS Enterprise might be more realistic for a Blender user.

Besides, it is good to see how other tools work and we were surprised that Blender could be relatively simple to use. Every time we see [Jared’s] channel, we think we should learn more about Blender. But if you have your heart set on a real scanner, there are plenty of open source designs you can print.

Better 3D Scans Through A Slowed Down Turntable

3D scanners aren’t cheap, and the last thing you want to see after purchasing one is bad data. But that’s what [Dave Does] and others were getting from their Revopoint POP scanners until some communal brainstorming uncovered the reason: the motorized turntable that came with the Kickstarter edition of the product was spinning too fast for the software to accurately keep track of the object. So he decided to replace the stepper motor controller in his turntable and document the process for anyone else who’s scanner might be struggling.

Plenty of room for expansion.

In the video below, [Dave] pops open the plastic case of the turntable and reveals a pretty sparse interior. There’s an incredible amount of empty space inside, and even some mounting studs to screw down new components, should you want to get into some hardcore upgrades. But for his purposes, a generic stepper motor controller that featured a potentiometer to adjust the speed was enough. He found a suitable board online for around $5 USD, and got to designing a 3D printed bracket that mates up to the existing screw holes on the turntable.

But it’s not exactly a drop-in replacement. For one thing, you’ve got to pop a hole in the side of the enclosure for the potentiometer knob to stick out of. You’ve also got to solder wires coming from the original DC jack and power switch to the new board to get it hooked up, but at least the motor plugs right in. In the video below, you can see [Dave] demonstrate the impressively deep throttle capability of the new driver.

If you’d rather build than buy, we’ve covered some impressive DIY turntables in the past that could fit the bill nicely, from automatic models that handle camera control to fully 3D printed versions that you’ve got to crank yourself.

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Sub-mm Mechanical 3D Scanner With Encoders And String

[Scott Rumschlag] wanted a way to precisely map interior spaces for remodeling projects, but did not want to deal with the massive datasets created by optical 3D scanning, and found the precision of the cost-effective optical tools lacking. Instead, he built a 3D cable measuring device that can be used to map by using a manual probe attached to a cable.

The cable is wound on a retractable spool, and passes over a pulley and through a carbon fiber tube mounted on a two-axis gimbal. There are a few commercial machines that use this mechanical approach, but [Scott] decided to build one himself after seeing the prices. The angle of rotation of each axis of the gimbal and the length of extended cable is measured with encoders, and in theory the relative coordinates of the probe can be calculated with simple geometry. However, for the level of precision [Scott] wanted, the devil is in the details. To determine the position of a point within 0.5 mm at a distance of 3 m, an angular resolution of less than 0.001° is required on the encoders. Mechanical encoders could add unnecessary drag, and magnetic encoders are not perfectly linear, so optical encoders were used. Many other factors can also introduce errors, like stretch and droop in the cable, stickiness of the bearings, perpendicularity of the gimbals axis and even the spring force created by the encoder wires. Each of these errors had to accounted for in the calculations. At first, [Scott] was using an Arduino Mega for the geometry calculations, but moved it to his laptop after he discovered the floating point precision of the Mega was not good.

[Scott] spend around 500 hours building and tuning the device, but the end result is really impressive. There are surprisingly few optical machines that can achieve this level of precision and accuracy, and they can be affected by factors like the reflectivity of an object.

If you do want to get into real 3D scanning, definitely take the time to read [Donal Papp]’s excellent guide to the practical aspects of the various technologies. Most of us already have a 3D scanner in our pocket in the form of a smartphone, which can be used for photogrammetry.

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Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

What To Expect From 3D Scanning, And How To Work With It

3D scanning and 3D printing may sound like a natural match for one another, but they don’t always play together as easily and nicely as one would hope. I’ll explain what one can expect by highlighting three use cases the average hacker encounters, and how well they do (or don’t) work. With this, you’ll have a better idea of how 3D scanning can meet your part design and 3D printing needs.

How Well Some Things (Don’t) Work

Most 3D printing enthusiasts sooner or later become interested in whether 3D scanning can make their lives and projects easier. Here are a three different intersections of 3D scanning, 3D printing, and CAD along with a few words on how well each can be expected to work.

Goal Examples and Details Does it work?
Use scans to make copies of an object.
  • 3D scan something, then 3D print copies.
  • Objects might be functional things like fixtures or appliance parts, or artistic objects like sculptures.
Mostly yes, but depends on the object
Make a CAD model from a source object.
  • The goal is a 1:1 model, for part engineering purposes.
  • Use 3D scanning instead of creating the object in CAD.
Not Really
Digitize inconvenient or troublesome shapes.
  • Obtain an accurate model of complex shapes that can’t easily be measured or modeled any other way.
  • Examples: dashboards, sculptures, large objects, objects that are attached to something else or can’t be easily moved, body parts like heads or faces, and objects with many curves.
  • Useful to make sure a 3D printed object will fit into or on something else.
  • Creating a CAD model of a part for engineering purposes is not the goal.
Yes, but it depends

In all of these cases, one wants a 3D model of an object, and that’s exactly what 3D scanning creates, so what’s the problem? The problem is that not all 3D models are alike and useful for the same things.

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The US Air Force Wants Your 3D Scanner Ideas

One key piece of technology from Star Trek is the replicator, a machine that 3D prints up almost anything using some hazily-defined high technology. You have to wonder though, how did the patterns for Earl Grey tea or a spare part for a shuttlecraft intercooler come to exist in the first place. Maybe someone designed them, or perhaps they scanned the real articles. The US Air Force is betting on the latter, and they’ve asked for white papers and proposals for innovative methods to scan objects for 3D printing.

It isn’t surprising military planners would like to have effective 3D printing. After all, you can’t carry every spare part you might need into a theater of operation. Not to mention spares for your friends in joint operations or for enemy gear you might happen to capture. Having a truck that could turn out whatever your troops need is an attractive proposition. Continue reading “The US Air Force Wants Your 3D Scanner Ideas”

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Hackaday Links: November 8, 2020

Saturday, November 7, 2020 – NOT PASADENA. Remoticon, the virtual version of the annual Hackaday Superconference forced upon us by 2020, the year that keeps on giving, is in full swing. As I write this, Kipp Bradford is giving one of the two keynote addresses, and last night was the Bring a Hack virtual session, which I was unable to attend but seems to have been very popular, at least from the response to it. In about an hour, I’m going to participate in the SMD Soldering Challenge on the Hackaday writing crew team, and later on, I’ll be emceeing a couple of workshops. And I’ll be doing all of it while sitting in my workshop/office here in North Idaho.

Would I rather be in Pasadena? Yeah, probably — last year, Supercon was a great experience, and it would have been fun to get together again and see everyone. But here we are, and I think we’ve all got to tip our hacker hats to the Remoticon organizers, for figuring out how to translate the in-person conference experience to the virtual space as well as they have.

The impact of going to a museum and standing in the presence of a piece of art or a historic artifact is hard to overstate. I once went to an exhibit of artifacts from Pompeii, and was absolutely floored to gaze upon a 2,000-year-old loaf of bread that was preserved by the volcanic eruption of 79 AD. But not everyone can get to see such treasures, which is why Scan the World was started. The project aims to collect 3D scans of all kinds of art and artifacts so that people can potentially print them for study. Their collection is huge and seems to concentrate on classic sculptures — Michelangelo’s David is there, as are the Venus de Milo, the Pieta, and Rodin’s Thinker. But there are examples from architecture, anatomy, and history. The collection seems worth browsing through and worth contributing to if you’re so inclined.

For all the turmoil COVID-19 has caused, it has opened up some interesting educational opportunities that probably wouldn’t ever have been available in the Before Time. One such opportunity is an undergraduate-level course in radio communications being offered on the SDRPlay YouTube channel. The content was created in partnership with the Sapienza University of Rome. It’s not entirely clear who this course is open to, but the course was originally designed for third-year undergrads, and the SDRPlay Educators Program is open to anyone in academia, so we’d imagine you’d need some kind of academic affiliation to qualify. The best bet might be to check out the intro video on the SDRPlay Educator channel and plan to attend the webinar scheduled for November 19 at 1300 UTC. You could also plan to drop into the Learning SDR and DSP Hack Chat on Wednesday at noon Pacific, too — that’s open to everyone, just like every Hack Chat is.

And finally, as if bald men didn’t suffer enough disrespect already, now artificial intelligence is having a go at them. At a recent soccer match in Scotland, an AI-powered automatic camera system consistently interpreted an official’s glabrous pate as the soccer ball. The system is supposed to keep the camera trained on the action by recognizing the ball as it’s being moved around the field. Sadly, the linesman in this game drew the attention of the system quite frequently, causing viewers to miss some of the real action. Not that what officials do during sporting events isn’t important, of course, but it’s generally not what viewers want to see. The company, an outfit called Pixellot, knows about the problem and is working on a solution. Here’s hoping the same problem doesn’t crop up on American football.

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.

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