3D printing has taken off,

3D printing has taken off, but the complementary technology of 3D scanning is still languishing due to the expense of industrial-grade equipment. An Indiegogo crowd-sourced start up is looking to fill the gap with the “Photon 3D”, a low-cost portable scanner that will help close the design loop. making it easier than ever to iterate your designs between the physical and virtual.

you can also do 3d scanning with a kinect, but you have to hold it in your hand and wave it around whatever you wish to scan. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:18125

I don’t see that as an complementary technology. It only produces meshes. No features like perfect CSG holes, flat surfaces, parallel and collinear features,…

@Marcus_Wolschon Depends on your use case, I think. For various artistic and academic purposes, for instance, including computer graphics, sculpting, archaeological preservation, etc. this scanning technology is already in use in conjunction with 3D printing. Making the scanning component more affordable can only serve to drive adoption of printer technology, IMHO.

I don’t see 3d scanning of art as a precursor for printing.
Usually the computer model is all you want to show the art.
For replicas the printers are to much work compared to making a 500Kg gypsum copy.

There’s also the issue of only being able to scan the surface of an object. Which cuts down the number of objects, that would serve practical purposes, worth scanning. Until then, affordable, high fidelity scanners won’t take off, thus stagnating innovation. Show me a scanner capable of ‘seeing’ through the object, and I’ll show you my pocket book.

@Aaron_Isaacs I would like an MRI scanner myself but that’s likely to remain out of my hobby budget for some time.

What would be useful in conjunction with a surface-level scanner is photogrammetric software that helps users infer internal structure allowing for reverse engineering and CAD model generation. But I still contend that there is lots of utility, for artists especially, in having just surface level object representations.

How do you plan to infer internal structures from photos unless the object is transparent (in wich case the laser-scanner can scan it right away)

And how do you plan to generate CAD=CSG models from meshes? That’s a terribly hard practical problem.

@Marcus_Wolschon The software I envision definitely wouldn’t make this an automatic process, any more than the construction of 3D models from multiple 2D photos is automatic using current photogrammetric software; it would operate more along the lines of a support tool to assist the user in complying with constraints defined by the scanned model. providing a library of assemblies of whatever kind, etc.

To make this a bit more concrete, I might scan a simple object such as a sphere with a cylinder subtracted from it to get a mesh. By picking vertices on the surface of the sphere part of the mesh you get a parametric representation; mutatis mutandis for the cylinder. Generating a CSG model matching the scanned design becomes easy with these primitives in hand. Of course, for more complex mechanical systems this would be a lot harder, but a good tool to assist in the process would be correspondingly more valuable.

These ideas are inspired in part by the work of John S Gero from George Mason U. Some straight forward extrapolation of his work suggests suggest interesting possibilities, such as constraining the inference process described above using high-level design concepts, e.g. “engine”, “axle”, “power transfer”.

This is pie in the sky stuff, I know, but it’s lots of fun to think about. :slight_smile: