3D Scanning Natural Forms

IMG_20190117_3D Scan EinScan Pro

This is a post about my new favourite toy – the EinScan Pro 2X Plus 3D scanner from Shining 3D. Why? Because it allows you to turn any object into a 3D model! And I can tell you upfront, it works REALLY well!

This is not the first 3D scanner from Shining 3D, which is a good sign that both their hardware and software has had time to mature. The EinScan Pro 2X Plus is brand new to the market, which means there are not many reviews at the time I’m writing, although you can find a brief overview from 3D Scan Expert and will no doubt see a full review from him in the near future. I’m not a 3D scanning expert, so am not going to dive into all the details here. I have used several scanners in the past and written a few posts, but this is the first that I have full access and control over and am currently using on a daily basis.

Enough with the introductions. One of my first experiments has been to 3D scan some challenging organic forms, including some shells which I picked up from the beach. The top photo shows one of these shells being scanned (we have the “Industrial Pack” turntable and “Colour Pack” upgrades for the scanner). The process is straight forward in the accompanying EXScan Pro software – a few basic settings about the detail you’d like to capture and press go. The turntable and scanner do the rest, and you can see the points being captured in real-time on screen. There is a bit of cleanup after the first scan to remove any points that aren’t needed (e.g. you can see in the photo some points around the perimeter where the scanner picked up an edge of the turntable), at which point you have your first scan.

This could be all the detail you need depending on your application; however, all you have is an outside collection of points, with no detail about the inside of the shell. So I then flipped the shell over and performed a second scan. The only difference from the previous step is that now there are 2 scans. Amazingly the software is proving quite intelligent at automatically aligning multiple scans, finding common points and bringing them all together. This doesn’t always work, and there is an option to manually align 2 scans by selecting 3 common points in each. I must admit the interface for this process is quite painful to use at the moment, so it’s always great when the software automatically does this. Overall the software is very basic, you really don’t have a lot of control – which can be both a blessing and a curse. You certainly can’t perform any sort of editing actions other than selecting and deleting points.

The final step is to turn all of the points (aka. point cloud) into a mesh suitable for 3D CAD software, or 3D printing. There is an option to create a watertight mesh, letting the software automatically fill any holes in the model. For this shell scan I only had very minor gaps which were nicely cleaned up and blended into the mesh. However, I have found with some other scans that if holes are quite large, or there are some messy overlaps in scan data, the software will produce some weird results – best to keep scanning to capture as much data as possible before creating a mesh, once you get to this step there is no turning back.

IMG_20190118_3D Print Shell

Best of all, being a watertight mesh, the file can be immediately used for 3D printing. But why simply replicate a shell? I always see large shells as decorator items in stores retailing for hundreds of dollars – and now I can 3D print them for a fraction of the price. This one was scaled up 500% and printed on a Wanhao Duplicator D9/500 – which is still working somewhat consistently after my previous post and firmware upgrades. I decided to print it in an upright orientation so that the 0.5mm layers are similar to the layers naturally occurring in the shell. Even though the print quality is still quite rough, I think this only adds to the natural effect.

The shell has been saved as a .obj file, meaning that it has all the colour information along with the geometry that would normally be a .stl file. I have shared this on Sketchfab so that you can have a closer look at the mesh in 3D using the above viewer. I think it’s a really great result, and hopefully you can see why I have called this my new favourite toy. It really does open up new opportunities (perhaps you’ve already seen some new experiments if you follow me on Instagram). Stay tuned, I’m sure there’ll be plenty more posts that involve 3D scanning and 3D printing in the future.

– Posted by James Novak

Advertisements

Cowtech 3D Scanner – The Build

20160729_Cowtech Ciclop Build

3D scanning has featured a few times on my blog (eg. see my custom virtual reality headset which perfectly fits my face), so it was only a matter of time until I bought a scanner for myself. Earlier in the year Kickstarter convinced me to help fund the Ciclop 3D Scanner from Cowtech, a $99 open-source system that was impossible to refuse. Yep, $99!

Well here it is, built over a couple of days and making me feel like a kid again with a new kit of Lego. I bought the cheapest version of the scanner, choosing to 3D print the components myself (naturally!) which can be freely downloaded from Thingiverse. These worked really well, only a few areas where support material was time-consuming to remove, and were all done on the small build plate of the UP Plus 2. The top left photo shows most of these 3D printed parts (12 in total needed).

20160805_Cowtech BrokenAfter receiving the other scanner hardware from Cowtech this week, it was finally time to put this kit together – no simple task after I snapped one of the key parts early in the assembly process! You can see the 2 broken pieces of acrylic to the left, which are both from the long arm connecting the 2 main octagonally-shaped hubs in the middle photo at the top of the page. So far Araldite seems to be holding them, and this snapping seems to be a common problem people are reporting – maybe a bit better tolerances required in the laser cut pieces, or a different material that’s not quite so brittle.

Otherwise the assembly process has been quite straight forward, the video provided by Cowtech is very easy to follow, especially if you’re a little familiar with Arduino’s. There are some really clever details in the way nuts slot into the laser cut pieces and screws slide through the 3D prints that I’ve never seen before, so as a designer it was fun to discover these details. I really appreciate the tolerances for many of the different parts fitting together, from laser cut to 3D print to machined screws, I am honestly surprised how well they all came together for me. So in the top right image you can see the final result – I have to admit I feel like an extra 3D printed part is required to cap off the top above the camera, it doesn’t look right to me so this might be something I make myself soon.

The challenge I’m having now is that I can’t get my camera to be recognised by the recommended open-source software for the scanner, Horus. I’ve spent hours installing software and drivers, rebooting my computer, uninstalling, installing in a different order, rebooting… Nothing is working. Hmmm, a bit frustrating but as I’ve learned with these sorts of new products from Kickstarter, sometimes it can take some time for people to start posting solutions and updates as my order was dispatched quite early and there is just not much up on the forum yet. Hopefully soon!

Keep an eye out on my blog for updates, and hopefully soon some successful 3D scans!

– Posted by James Novak

Update 7/8/2016:

Settings That Work CroppedAfter some ideas from the Cowtech Facebook Group, I have solved the connectivity problem – hopefully it helps anyone else that reads this. Firstly the Cowtech Scanning Guide says to plug in the camera to set it up in Horus – but you actually need to plug in the entire scanner – 2 USB’s and power. I then went into the preferences, selected the appropriate camera and serial, then changed the Arduino type to “Arduino Uno” and clicked “Upload Firmware” (shown left). I had to close and then re-open Horus, but now it’s all up and running. Hopefully the rest of the calibration goes a little smoother. I think the instruction booklet from Cowtech needs to make this clearer, and include these preference changes.

Cyclops – Step 1

150623 Cyclops

With a costume party fast approaching I couldn’t turn up without at least some part of my outfit 3D printed could I? Originally I had planned to go as Thomas from Daft Punk after finding the helmet files on Thingiverse, however this is a seriously involved 3D print with around 30 pieces to print, glue, smooth, paint and install electronics! As much as this would be an awesome project, I can’t really justify that amount of time, and probably wouldn’t finish it in time anyway. Searching for something smaller, Cyclops from X-Men became my next option – I’ve never been a fan of the movie version played by James Marsden, but growing up watching the cartoon version he was always my favourite. The best image I could find of the goggles is on the left.

A quick look on Thingiverse didn’t bring up anything that really looked any good, so today’s job has been to model the trademark goggles worn by Cyclops (not the lame looking sunglasses!). I’ve previously had a 3D scan of my face done, and used it to build a perfect-fitting Virtual Reality headset – this seemed like a great starting point to get the dimensions correct. Originally I was going to make these goggles fit perfectly as well, using the surfaces of the 3D scan to shape them. However I’d like to share this design on Thingiverse, and doubt there are too many clones of me out there who would fit it! So I’ve just used the scan to get the sizing correct for my face, and kept the geometry much more generic so that it should suit most people, perhaps with some scaling to shrink/enlarge it for different head shapes. You can see how I’ve modeled half of the design in Solidworks in the right image, with the biggest challenge being to get the eye-slot in the right spot and the rest of the geometry proportional around this. The slot is quite narrow so it needs to be correct or I won’t be seeing very much!

150624 Cyclops

I have sliced the model up into 4 sections so that it can be printed on the small print plate of my Up! Plus 2 3D printer – notice the small slots I’ve added to allow for easy alignment and gluing. Now just to print, glue, paint, and figure out how to achieve the red eye-piece and light it up. Once that’s all done and I know it works (fingers crossed!) I’ll upload it to Thingiverse 🙂

– Posted by James Novak

Immortalised Through 3D Scanning

150223 3D Scan FaceSince playing around with some 3D printed Virtual Reality headsets recently (previous post here) I’ve been interested to see how easily a 3D scan can be used to create a perfect-fitting headset. One of my biggest problems with the designs out there is that they’re pretty uncomfortable, especially if you’ve got a big European nose like me! One of the true benefits of 3D printing is the opportunity to customise a design, and 3D scanning fits perfectly within a designers workflow to do this. While the most accurate scanning technology may not be readily accessible to most people yet, it’s certainly not far off with a multitude of Apps and kickstarter projects hitting the market, so I’m interested to experiment with what can be done.

Thanks to the legendary Chris Little, aka. Golden Boy, who scanned my face using a handheld photogrammetry-type 3D scanner and spent a fun weekend processing the data, I now have a digital surface of my face to build 3D models with (image 1). In order to test how accurate this scan is to my actual face, I quickly modeled a part that mimics a simple virtual reality headset and 3D printed half of it on my Up! Plus 2 3D printer. Perfect fit! This means that not only will 3D models fit my face, but I can accurately measure things like the distance between my pupils and account for this in the placement of lenses within the design… All exciting things to come!

– Posted by James Novak (the real one, not the now digitized version!)