3D Scanners Application have come a long way. From a very high tech and costly equipment only available at very few research institutions to sub $300 off-the shelf device available anywhere. Here we will tell you how you can make a mobile app (or integrate into your desktop app) a 3D scanner in less than few weeks.
A 3D Scanner is a device (either mounted or handheld) which scans real world objects. The output is a point cloud (3D coordinates with or without color information) in various formats. Sometimes the scanner also produces a mesh (STL/OBJ format) by connecting the scanned points.
Why use 3D Scanners?
A 3D scanner allows us to capture shapes of real world objects. This enables you to simulate real world physics and create high-fidelity 3D models with high-resolution textures in seconds. The possibilities are incredible. As 3D printing becomes more and more ubiquitous, 3D scanners can help anyone manufacture anything instantly. Scanners are deployed in medical, construction, mechanical, aerospace and many other industries. Main applications areas of scanners currently are prototyping, inspection, prosthetics, reverse engineering etc.
What objects can I scan?
There are two main categories of scanners – short range (minimum 1 foot distance from object) and long range (1+ meters). Short range scanners are generally portable and can be used to scan small objects, body parts etc. Long range scanners are used to scan larger objects – from buildings to fields. What are some of the 3D scanners available in the market?
Some of the known names in 3D scanner manufacturing are 3D Systems, Faro, Leica, Trimble etc.
How do I decide which scanner is suitable for my application?
Type: Handheld or mounted. Depends on what objects you need to scan. For very small (gemstones, little parts) or very large objects (buildings, bridges etc.), you may want to use mounted scanners. For regular size objects (mechanical parts, teeth/face/feet etc.), a handheld scanner would be more suitable.
Scan Range: Depends on the object size and distance from the scanner.
Scan accuracy: How close the scanned results are relative to the actual object determines the accuracy. Cost of the scanner increases for higher accuracy.
Scan resolution: This parameter determines the level of detail that a scanner can scan. For smaller and intricate objects, you may have to go for higher resolution scanner.
Speed: The speed at which the scanner captures the object. For static/stationary objects, a slow scanner is fine. For scanning objects which tend to move (body scanner), a quick scanner would be ideal.
Cost: This is indeed a major factor. Scanner costs can vary from <$300 to >$500,000.
What are parameters to consider for integrating a 3D Scanner?
Scan Data Format: Scanners can product out in various forms, point data, color data, mesh data, parametric model. Having the data in right format will make it easy to integrate.
API/SDK: Scanners are often bundled with SDK (Software Development Toolkit) which allow software developers to access the 3D scanner data as well as manipulate and control the device through API (Application Programming Interface). This is very essential aspect for integrating a scanner. One should check for the availability of documentation and sample code of this SDK.
Software Features: Check if the device includes software modules to post process the data such as eliminate noise, create watertight meshes. For 3D printing, it is nice to have a function which can make the scanned meshes watertight.
Platform: Scanners are required to be connected to various devices viz. PC, mobile devices for data transmission and exchange. Check if your scanner is compatible with the software platform you intend to support.
How can ProtoTech help me with this?
Evaluate 3D scanners and identify the best fit.
Develop a custom application which uses 3D scanner.
Integrate the 3D Scanner with your existing app
Design and develop new features/algorithms which use scan data and post process it.
3D Visualization, manipulation, measurement of scanned data.
Output data in required format. Export to PDF, STL etc. for further processing.
What is ProtoTech’s experience in this area?
ProtoTech has recently developed an iOS app using Structure Sensor (from USD 379 – https://occipital.com) to develop custom insole designing app for a Swedish company.