3D Scan.FaceIf  a picture is worth a thousand words, then how many words is a 3D model worth? 3D Scanning is taking 3d printing to another level - it is allowing people to visualize the natural world in new ways.

This weeks show is an interview with Bernhard of Virtumake, a company based in Vienna, Austria that offers 3D Scanning services to its customers.  One of the many interesting projects that Bernhard is working on, is the VirtuZoom Microscope 3D-Sanner, which enables you to create large 3D models of smaller objects like coffee beans or coins.

Could you tell us about the DIY 3D scanners you are working on?

My last project was the VirtuZoom Microscope 3D-Scanner. It is a device that automatically scans tiny objects like little coins or insects. You can magnify the 3D data to any size you want and finally create a much bigger physical model of the object with your 3D printer.

Another project I am currently working on is based of the idea from the user MagWeb. His idea was to put reading glasses in front of a standard Kinect sensor. You can get high details scans with this method. I will use this process to build an automatic 3D scanner.


How does a 3d scanner work?

There are several techniques to get 3D-data from a real world object.

Most DIY scanners are based on a beamer that projects a regular pattern on an object. The pattern then gets deformed by the shape of the object. For example if you project a straight line on a sphere, the line deforms to a curve.

Next, a camera records the deformed pattern and finally the 3D-scanning software calculates the 3D-Model from this data.

Most DIY projects can be distinguished by the light source. So, you have Laser scanners, Structured Light scanners and Infrared scanners, like the Kinect and the Asus Xtion. Another Option to scan objects is to take pictures from several views of the object and a software calculates the object from these pictures.

What type of software are you running? Is it Open Source? Are there many 3D scanning software options out there?

For Laser- and Strucutred Light scanners, I user the software David-Laserscanner. It is commercial and the developer team is pushing their software further and further.

For Infrared Scanners (Kinect ...) I use mostly Artec Studio and Skanect. Both are commercial. Artec is a very robust, professional software that can be used with professional equipment too. Skanect is relatively new to the market. It is intended for hobbyists and you get good results.

You can get an overview on software choices at our new forum www.diy3dscan.com

Every software has its strengths and it depends on the object which one is the best. The forum is intended to help people to make the best choice and to support discussion between them.

Do you have plans to sell kits or produce finished scanners for sale?

I would like to help people getting started with 3D scanning, because I think its going to be a really big thing within the next years. Unfortunately, currently I do not have the resources to provide kits that make people happy.

However, all projects are Open Source Hardware. If someone would like to market them, I will support them.

How did you get into 3D scanners? 

If you look out of the window, you see two parallel worlds.

One is the man-made, planned, technical world. It looks the way it is because of the production processes and tools we learned to use over the last centuries. The technical world uses energy to shift resources and builds structures at any place of the world.

The other world is the natural, self organizing, replicating world. It looks the way it is because of billions of try and error experiments. Nature is the optimum way of making use of the resources and energy that is available on a certain place.

I interpret tools as kind of thinking machines. We think and build our world with the thinking machines of the past centuries: mills, lathes, cars, power plants. The result is a world that relies on a steady supply of artificial energy and precious resources from all over the planet.

Natures thinking machines are cells. Tiny objects that make use of the resources available and that communicate with each other to build any kind of structures. Cells for themselves are resources for of other natural objects aso.

Now, humankind has is a new thinking machine. The 3D printer. This device is scale-able  You can print tiny things, but you can also print big structure like houses. It just depends on the material you are printing with. I can be plastic, wood, concrete, metal; 3D printers can easily print organic structures like meshes of pillars that look like trunks.

With 3D printers we can re-think the world we live in. They help us to develop new tools to find more and more efficient solutions to problems.

Current CAD software is made for the technical world. It does not make use of the potential of 3D printers to handle organic structures.

3D scanners are an option to get natural structures in you 3d designs and to learn from the best designer: nature.

What turned you onto Open Source Hardware?

The more I got into 3d printing, the more I realized how many people contributed to this technology.

I can build a 3D printer entirely by myself with the internet, design files, firmware, controller boards and software that has been made public by enthusiasts all over the world. I am very thankful, because they gave me such great new tools.

There is so much creativity and new thinking in the 3D scene. I will go on with this spirit and share the tools I develop with anybody who wants to use them. This process if very fast and efficient. Everyone can contribute to this process, based on the ideas of others. It gives me the chance to see how this technology rapidly develops over the next years and I have the good feeling that I gave society something useful, which hopefully helps us to make our world a better place.


P.S.  Bernhard at Virtumake has posted a challenge at their forum to build an Open Source Hardware Time-of-Flight 3D scanner - this would be a great technology to get familiar with - what better way then to win the contest?

Learning about Arduino?
Join the thousands to signup for our Free 12-part Arduino Video Course
We hate spam just as much as you