3D Scanning, Phone Edition

It seems to make sense. If you have a 3D printer, you might wish you could just scan some kind of part and print it — sort of like a 3D photocopier. Every time we think about this, though, we watch a few videos and are instantly disappointed by the results, especially with cheap scanners. If you go the hardware route, even cheap is relative. However, you can — in theory — put an app on your phone to do the scanning. Some of the apps are free, and some have varying costs, but, again, it seems like a lot of work for an often poor result. So we were very interested in the video from [My 3D Print Lab] where he uses his phone and quite a few different apps and objectively compares them.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most expensive packages that required a monthly or annual subscription created an excellent scan. He didn’t print from it, though, because it would not let you download any models without a fee. The subject part was an ornate chess piece, and the program seems to have captured it nicely. He removed the background and turntable he was using with no problems.

Other apps didn’t fare as well, either missing some of the parts or failing to omit background elements. You may have to do some post-processing. Some of the other expensive options have free trials or other limits, but you can at least try them for free. One of the free trials let you do three free scans, but each scan took about 8 hours to process.

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Watch The OpenScan DIY 3D Scanner In Action

[TeachingTech] has a video covering the OpenScan Mini that does a great job of showing the workflow, hardware, and processing method for turning small objects into high-quality 3D models. If you’re at all interested but unsure where or how to start, the video makes an excellent guide.

We’ve covered the OpenScan project in the past, and the project has progressed quite a bit since then. [TeachingTech] demonstrates scanning a number of small and intricate objects, including a key, to create 3D models with excellent dimensional accuracy.

[Thomas Megel]’s OpenScan project is a DIY project that, at its heart, is an automated camera rig that takes a series of highly-controlled photographs. Those photographs are then used in a process called photogrammetry to generate a 3D model from the source images. Since the quality of the source images is absolutely critical to getting good results, the OpenScan hardware platform plays a pivotal role.

Once one has good quality images, the photogrammetry process itself can be done in any number of ways. One can feed images from OpenScan into a program like Meshroom, or one may choose to use the optional cloud service that OpenScan offers (originally created as an internal tool, it is made available as a convenient processing option.)

It’s really nice to have a video showing how the whole workflow works, and highlighting the quality of the results as well as contrasting them with other 3D scanning methods. We’ve previously talked about 3D scanning and what it does (and doesn’t) do well, and the results from the OpenScan Mini are fantastic. It might be limited to small objects, but it does a wonderful job on them. See it all for yourself in the video below.

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3D Human Models From A Single Image

You’ve seen it in movies and shows — the hero takes a blurry still picture, and with a few keystrokes, generates a view from a different angle or sometimes even a full 3D model. Turns out, thanks to machine learning and work by several researchers, this might be possible. As you can see in the video below, using “shape-guided diffusion,” the researchers were able to take a single image of a person and recreate a plausible 3D model.

Of course, the work relies on machine learning. As you’ll see in the video, this isn’t a new idea, but previous attempts have been less than stellar. This new method uses shape prediction first, followed by an estimate of the back view appearance. The algorithm then guesses what images go between the initial photograph and the back view. However, it uses the 3D shape estimate as a guideline. Even then,  there is some post-processing to join the intermediate images together into a model.

The result looks good, although the video does point out some areas where they still fall short. For example, unusual lighting can affect the results.

This beats spinning around a person or a camera to get many images. Scanning people in 3D is a much older dream than you might expect.

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[Thomas Sanladerer]’s YouTube Channel Goes In The Toilet

We like [Thomas Sanladerer], so when we say his channel has gone in the toilet, we mean that quite literally. He had a broken toilet and wanted to compare options for effecting a 3D printed repair. The mechanism is a wall-mounted flush mechanism with a small broken plastic part. Luckily, he had another identical unit that provided a part that wasn’t broken.

The first attempt was to 3D scan the good part. The first scanner’s software turned out to be finicky, and [Thomas] finally gave up on it. He finally used a handheld scanner which took about a half hour. It wasn’t, of course, perfect, so he also had to do some more post-processing.

The next step was to make measurements and draw the part in CAD. It took the same amount as the scan, and it is worth noting that the part had curves and angles — it wasn’t just a faceplate. The printed results were good, although a measurement error made the CAD model bind a bit instead of pivoting the way it should. The scan, of course, got it right.

A quick revision of the design solved that problem but, of course, it added some time to the process. At the end, he noticed that the scanned “good” part was also broken but in a different way. He added the additional part, which didn’t seem to bother the function. The scanned object required a little trimming but nothing tremendous.

In the end, the scanning was a bit quicker, partly because it didn’t suffer from the measurement error. However, [Thomas] noted that it was more fun to work in CAD. We thought the results looked better, anyway. [Thomas] thinks the scanners, at least the budget ones, are probably better for just getting reference objects into CAD to guide you when you create the actual objects to print.

It isn’t hard to make a cheap scanner. Some of the open designs are quite sophisticated.

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Beautifully Rebuilding A VR Headset To Add AR Features

[PyottDesign] recently wrapped up a personal project to create himself a custom AR/VR headset that could function as an AR (augmented reality) platform, and make it easier to develop new applications in a headset that could do everything he needed. He succeeded wonderfully, and published a video showcase of the finished project.

Getting a headset with the features he wanted wasn’t possible by buying off the shelf, so he accomplished his goals with a skillful custom repackaging of a Quest 2 VR headset, integrating a Stereolabs Zed Mini stereo camera (aimed at mixed reality applications) and an Ultraleap IR 170 hand tracking module. These hardware modules have tons of software support and are not very big, but when sticking something onto a human face, every millimeter and gram counts.

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3D Scanning A Room With A Steam Deck And A Kinect

It may not be obvious, but Valve’s Steam Deck is capable of being more than just a games console. Demonstrating this is [Parker Reed]’s experiment in 3D scanning his kitchen with a Kinect and Steam Deck combo, and viewing the resulting mesh on the Steam Deck.

The two pieces of hardware end up needing a lot of adapters and cables.

[Parker] runs the RTAB-Map software package on his Steam Deck, which captures a point cloud and color images while he pans the Kinect around. After that, the Kinect’s job is done and he can convert the data to a mesh textured with the color images. RTAB-Map is typically used in robotic applications, but we’ve seen it power completely self-contained DIY 3D scanners.

While logically straightforward, the process does require some finessing and fiddling to get it up and running. Reliability is a bit iffy thanks to the mess of cables and adapters required to get everything hooked up, but it does work. [Parker] shows off the whole touchy process, but you can skip a little past the five minute mark if you just want to see the scanning in action.

The Steam Deck has actual computer chops beneath its games console presentation, and we’ve seen a Steam Deck appear as a USB printer that saves received print jobs as PDFs, and one has even made an appearance in radio signal direction finding.

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Mommy, Where Do Ideas Come From?

We wrote up an astounding old use of technology – François Willème’s 3D scanning and modeling apparatus from 1861, over 150 years ago. What’s amazing about this technique is that it used absolutely cutting-edge technology for the time, photography, and the essence of a technique still used today in laser-line 3D scanners, or maybe even more closely related to the “bullet time” effect.

This got me thinking of how Willème could have possibly come up with the idea of taking 24 simultaneous photographs, tracing the outline in wood, and then re-assembling them radially into a 3D model. And all of this in photography’s very infancy.

But Willème was already a sculptor, and had probably seen how he could use photos to replace still models in the studio, at least to solidify proportions. And he was probably also familiar with making cameos, where the profile was often illuminated from behind and carved, often by tracing shadows. From these two, you could certainly imagine his procedure, but there’s still an admirable spark of genius at work.

Could you have had that spark without the existence of photography? Not really. Tracing shadows in the round is impractical unless you can fix them. The existence of photography enabled this idea, and countless others, to come into existence.

That’s what I think is neat about technology, and the sharing of new technological ideas. Oftentimes they are fantastic in and of themselves, like photography indubitably was. But just as often, the new idea is a seed for more new ideas that radiate outward like ripples in a pond.