3-D Laser Scanning -- Analog to Digital

1st Test Scan
This past week I finally got my NextEngine 3-D laser scanner up and running.

Here's my first scan; an unfinished resin based face constructed by fantasy artist, Jake Waldron:

Look for new scans as I am piloting projects from artists and engineers I know in the Boston area ... are you such an artist, fabricator, or engineer who needs something scanned? Get in touch with me, I'd love to hear from you about your project or idea.


NextEngine one of early pioneer laser scanner companies out there with a system somewhere between really expensive professional ones (e.g. Faros) costing thousands of dollars, to hobbyist level ones using a couple slit scan lasers, servos, (open source) software, and a camera (e.g. MakerBot's digitizer).

On the lower end of spectrum of 3-D scanning systems, personally I think the secret sauce is in the software, rather than the hardware. The software that comes with NextEngine has been proving to be ok so far, but I've just been "kicking the tires", and there is likely more goodies underneath I am missing, especially with the CAD end of software offering. More exploration needed there.

The NE basic scan software definitely has more than a few quirks, and it's crashed on me a few times. Besides a few basic issues the UI to get a scan done is very intuitive, but reading the docs is required. I find the customer support really on the ball, and are happy to help and assist in getting it up and running. Also the amount of features in the software, coupled with a lot of the online documentation make it appealing for first time users. I look forward to learning all the tips, tricks, and processes to get the best result scans possible.

I have no doubt that companies like Matterform and MakerBot with their Digitizer doing hobbyist level scanners, as well as a lot of the legacy DIY'ers out there like DAVID will resurface, once 3-D printer operators catch onto to reverse engineering analog into digital craze, plus the 3-D sensing that's going mobile on devices now that IR based hardware is getting shrunk from it's bulky kinect-like form factor.

So far, a lot 3-D printing has been focused on replicating things that have come from digital first ... however, now that some scanning technology like full body IR based RGBD depth sensor cameras are making it into tablets like Occiptal's structure sensor (which I presume has a Capri sensor in it from Primesense), I think we'll see a lot more 3-D scanning of real world objects.

Google helped pioneer and consumers 2-D mapping of roads, and that lead to street views. Now we'll have early adopter mobile users scanning a lot of indoor locations & objects, as well as items in their living rooms, at work, and elsewhere ... and all in the 3-D realm.

Will it be useful? Sometimes. Other times not so much ... like when it's outdoors and IR-based systems most likely fail (except perhaps in evening/night). Distance is another issue on many of the IR based devices ... what about (visible) lasers? Yeah, they are kind of dangerous and/or annoying out in public. Still, no shortage of sensors going into mobile these devices, so perhaps there will be innovation in this area, soon. Perhaps even ToF (i.e. Time of Flight) systems which are small and inexpensive will appear in the future on mobile devices ...

Anyways, that's it for now on scanning. I'll post more as my research and development continues in this particular area.

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