Thursday, August 18, 2011

3D Scanning

An example of real object replication.
3D scanning is a form of analyzing real-world objects or environments to gather data on it's shape. The gathered data is used to create it's digital representation, like the example on the right. This one was 3D printed too (a process I described in my previous post), so now we have an almost exact duplicate, it's just missing some color.

You can see how this process could be used to duplicate your favorite toys, but if any of you are scientists, you could use this technology to create exact replicas of fragile artifacts to display in museums.

But how does it work?
There are many ways to 3D scan an object, some are more expensive, some are faster, but it all depends on your object's shape and size.

time-of-flight scanning
I won't go into details, but one of the main technologies behind it is Time-Of-Flight. The scanner points a laser rangefinder into an object and it measures how much time it takes for the light to hit the object. If you can imagine this process, then you can probably imagine doing it thousands of times for each point of the object. When you have a complete map of how far the points are, you can easily (if you're a computer) put them in a 3D space and there you have it, an object appears. Of course if you have a stationary camera, you have to rotate the object to scan it from all sides. Just for info: Typical time-of-flight 3D laser scanners can measure the distance of 10,000~100,000 points every second. An example of this can be seen on the right.

Here came the Microsoft's Kinect. People saw the opportunity right away and hacked it into a 3D scanner. The more Kinects you connect together, the more detailed images you get.  I would like to share two videos I found that produce 3D images using kinect. The first one also demos what you can do with a 3D printer:

The second one demostrates a DIY Kinect-powered turntable, which I thought was kind of cool.

There are more and more useful Kinect hacks which you can find on Youtube and which will definitely blow your mind.

All in all, 3D scanning is a very useful technology, not just in object replication, but also in medicine. 3D scanners can help doctors see the detailed insides of your body (brain, heart, etc.), or pregnant women to see their unborn children in 3D (3D ultrasound).

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  1. This stuff really did blow my mind. I love the very idea of 3D scanning and printing, and it's a shame that even the "affordable" ones, aren't that affordable :( Though I suppose with what you can do with them, they would pay for themselves.

  2. wow, great post man!!! awesome! :)
    +cl...follow (ita) :D

  3. This makes me want to study more. :D

  4. This is great! I gotta look up more about this!

  5. the plot from weird science could soon become a reality

  6. wow bro, that's amazing! what a crazy post! loved the 3d scanner

  7. These 3D devices are so awesome!

  8. this is amazing, I can not believe the technology is so advanced
    excellent post

  9. Really interesting.. I saw some cool stuff done with kinect, like 3D video, where you can turn the scene around and stuff.

  10. Very interesting. Couldn't an eight camera setup do the same with less work? I know it wold be expensive to get it going, but think of the work and time it could save in the long run.