Low Cost Optics Bench Project – Now with Lasercut Optics

[PWalsh] has a clever idea for learning and experimenting with basic optics: instead of using actual lenses, he’s using clear pieces of laser-cut acrylic cut into lens profiles instead. They are much easier to make, mount, adjust, and handle while still bending light in the same basic ways. It allows for simple hands-on experimentation with plenty of visual feedback – perfect for beginners.

Optical Group

This idea is part of [PWalsh]’s low-cost optics bench project, which uses laser-cut plastic to create adjustable optics bench components. We’ve covered this project before, but [PWalsh] expanded the idea with the concept of these simple laser-cut optics for basic experimentation; an addition that requires no additional tools and only a small amount of material. Features and value added for nearly zero cost is something we always love to see!

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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.