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!)