A 3D scanner is a camera like device which can be used to scan an object or person and create a virtual 3D model. We have a variety of 3D scanners which use a series of digital cameras, sensors and LED flashes to capture data about the shape and texture of objects. The data is captured via the sensors and fed into a software which builds a 3D model in real-time. The process is repeated several times over the whole surface of an object until all the necessary data has been captured. It can then be edited to remove unnecessary data such as floors and walls, aligned into a uniform position and then fusioned together to create a final 3D model.
How does the scanner work?
We have two different types of 3D scanner and both work using different software and have different abilities.
Our main scanner is an Artec 3D MHT scanning unit and our most dynamic scanner. It is used in conjunction with Artec Studio 10 software on our PC Laptop to perform scanning. The scanner works by using a series of cameras and sensors to read light which is bounced back off of the surface of an object. The data collected will contain information about the shape of the object and the texture colour. This information is automatically processed by the software and each snippet of data aligned to one another during a scan so that it creates a surface in space. It is not likely that one scan can be completed continually so several scans may have to be performed which can also be aligned automatically. Sometimes scans cannot automatically be aligned or you may have to come back to scanning at a different time. This requires you to align the scanned data manually. Once the data has been aligned it can then be fusioned together into one complete surface. The quality of this surface will be dependent on the quality of the data that has been scanned. When you get to a stage where you have a complete surface you can perform advanced tasks to find holes within the model and repair them. Finally using the texture images from the scans you can map the texture information back over the completed object.
We also have 2 3D Systems Sense (Next Generation) scanners. These are low quality scanners designed for creating simple 3D representations. They are mainly for people who want to experiment with 3D scanning or who are not interested in high quality scans and just want visual representations. A good use of them is for generating scans of textures such as tree bark or brick walls quickly. Sense scanners use their own native software designed with basic functionality in mind and fast model processing.
3D Scanning can be a complex process, especially if considering the higher end scanner. With both scanners you should not prepare to come out with a perfect replica of your scanned object. Many objects are to complex for the scanners to be able to scan, and detail will always be lost. Architecture students should note that complex architectural models are not suitable for scanning.
Are there any limitations?
Both of the types of scanner can only cope with so much data at one time and the larger the object you scan the longer your scanning and processing time will be. In general we suggest that what you are trying to scan should be no smaller than your fist and no bigger than a person for both scanners. Things smaller than a fist will be problematic to scan as tracking is very easily lost. Very thin objects will also be problematic so any part of a model should ideally be no thinner than a finger’s width. Paper and card models are not suitable.
Objects that are reflective will also cause problems as the light bounces off in different directions and little of it is absorbed by the object. This confuses the scanners and so sometimes the surface has to be made to look matt. This is particularly a problem with hair. These issues are all talked about futher in our demonstrations.
For more information on the use of the 3D scanner and its software please visit the Downloads page.
How much does it cost?
Using the 3D Scanners is Free! To be able to use one of the scanners you will need to have completed the relevant induction.