Use Your Phone to Scan Real Objects into Your Digital Projects

If you have a 3D printer, an interest in augmented reality, are a film maker, or game developer, chances are that at some point you have wanted to scan a real world object into your work. There are many systems and tools on the market to do exactly that. Solutions like the Go!Scan range in price from a few hundred, to thousands of dollars.

These uber-tech devices are so close to Star Trek that you can almost hear the warp core humming in the background when you pick one up. Point it at any person or thing, pull the trigger, move around for even coverage, and your target will be transported into your CAD package as a fully detailed mesh. No dilutetium chamber required.

Even if I had enough funds to purchase a 3D scanner, I couldn’t justify the expense. I wouldn’t get enough use out of it. I am sure that somebody rents them, but I didn’t come up with an option close enough to my location. So how is an enterprising tech head supposed to get his hands on one?

To continue our Star-Trek themed post, just use your tricorder. Most newer smart-phones are able to act as an object scanner through a process known as photogrammetry. Software helps you take multiple photographs of an object while tracking the angle and exact position of the camera during each snap.

The app will stitch all of the photos together along their X, Y, and Z plot points. Presto, a three dimensional representation of your subject is rendered on your two dimensional screen. You’ll be able to rotate and twist it to see every nook and cranny. Many of the apps support drawing lines between each point in the cloud, which results in a wireframe mesh.

The best apps like Display.Land will allow you to export that mesh to a file that can be imported into your favorite CAD package. I use the open source Blender software and Display.Land has published an end-to-end instructional video for it and several other solutions. Once you’ve imported your object’s scanned mesh into your CAD software, you’ll be able to manipulate it to your heart’s content.

Blender for all has published an excellent three part video series on using Blender with Cura to generate STL files for a 3D printer. I am attempting to use this process to create an adapter that will allow my friend’s gaming headset to fit over his hearing-aid. We’ll scan his headset and his head, then use both wireframes to design an adapter that fits between them. Keep an eye out for more posts on the project.

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