3D Scanning with Autodesk 123D Catch

3D Scanning an object using a digital camera and Autodesk 123D

I have created a 3D mesh of a sculpture created by the daughter of a friend. I want to describe the process which includes all freely available software, a digital camera, and a bit of common hardware.

I had a great Cloud Computing experience today! I have just had great success creating a 3D mesh of an object using a series of digital images and a freely accessible service called “Autodesk 123D Catch.” I collected a series of images from many angles around a test object and uploaded these to the Autodesk service. Somewhere in the world, there is a fast computer that turned all of these images in to a beautiful 3D mesh.

I think you will agree that this result rivals that of expensive commercial 3D scanning systems. I used mostly free stuff and a cloud computing service. Do you own a digital camera? Do you own a computer with internet access? Do you have two tripods? Can you obtain a piece of black poster board? Then you can do the same! Seriously, do you understand this? I didn’t use a $20,000 digital scanner to do this. I used a digital freakin camera! If you are reading this blog, you almost certainly have everything you need already to do this yourself. So go and do it!

Scan result from Autodesk 123D Catch

Scan result from Autodesk 123D Catch

Sculpture Render

Sculpture Blender Render

The arrangement is as follows. I cut an aluminum plate with a 1/4-20 tapped hole in the center and painted it flat black. I mounted this plate on a tripod and allowed it to be spin freely, using the tripod to make it level. I put a piece of black poster board behind it. I set up my digital camera at a short distance with a zoom lens so that I could capture just my object with a flat background. The program expects you to take pictures of an object from many angles as opposed to rotating an object and using a stationary camera, so you need to take care to make sure there is no observable background. My first attempt without blocking the background was entirely unsuccessful.

3D Scanning image collection arrangement 1

3D Scanning image collection arrangement 1

3D Scanning image collection arrangement 2

3D Scanning image collection arrangement 2

3D Scanning image collection arrangement 3

3D Scanning image collection arrangement 3

Here is a video description of the image capture arrangement.

I checked the quality of the captured images. Important features are good lighting and focus (I turned off auto focus after the first capture), and nothing but the object and black background in the image. Also, make sure to collect many angles. I think I collected about 55 images with small manual turns of the platform between each shot. Here are some example images. These are actually images from an earlier attempt where you can see a bit above the black poster board. I corrected this in later captures. The scan result just had a floating blob above it that I removed in Blender.

Object Image example 1

Object Image example 1

Object Image example 2

Object Image example 2

Object Image example 3

Object Image example 3

Here is a Quicktime video assembled from all of the images that I captured.

I uplodaed all of my images to the Autodesk 123D Catch computer, somewhere far away, and started the mesh generation process. I waited probably 30 to 40 minutes for this result. As you can see, the program is convinced that I somehow followed a perfectly circular path around my object and snapped a very large number of pictures. In truth, I spun the object and snapped pics. in fairly rapid succession. I think the capture process probably required about 10 to 15 minutes once I had it set up and aligned.

Autodesk123D Result

Autodesk123D Result

I then used mesh export with highest resolution, and opened it with Blender.

I removed extra vertices around the edges, but the mesh was mostly great as-is. I used Meshlab to create the snapshot at the beginning of this post.

I used Blender to also generate a video stepping through renderings of the mesh from various angles. I posted the video to YouTube.

Next we move on to 3D Printing!

I decimated the mesh by a factor of 0.05 (wow!), and exported an STL that can be opened in Google Sketchup with a free plug-in.

Blender and Sketchup

Blender and Sketchup

You can download the SLT version of the scuplture from Thingiverse.

Here is what it looks like in Replicator.

Replicator

Replicator

Here is the Skeinforge output, ready for my 3D printer.

Skeinforge Output

Note that I also tried My 3D Scanner. This is also an on-line accessible cloud computing mesh generator. The results were not as good as Autodesk, and took much longer to complete.  While Autodesk took about 20-30 minutes for the above results, My 3D Scanner required about 24 hours. Autodesk does have some software resident on my PC however, so the time required for My 3D Scanner could just be queuing behind other projects. Here are the results of My 3D Scanner.

 

OBJ Image from My 3D Scanner

OBJ Image from My 3D Scanner

 

PLY Image from My 3D Scanner

PLY Image from My 3D Scanner

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7 responses to “3D Scanning with Autodesk 123D Catch

  1. Very cool technique to spin the the part and not the camera. Looks like that greatly improved the data over my attempts to move around the subject. Great idea. Can’t wait to try it! My wife has a spinner for icing cakes that is about to get repurposed temporarily.

  2. I never moved the camera at all. I think the most important thing to do is to make sure the background is covered and non reflecting. Take a look at the Quicktime video that I included in the blog for the collection of raw images. I plan to use a larger background made of black felt or cloth turned at an angle so that any reflected camera flash is sent away. Then I want to do faces and torso models.

  3. Also, I think it was important that the camera was a bit above the object height in my case so that the top of the head was in the picture. Thinking about all the different views I can see how no surface was missed e.g. under the chin could be see from the side view and the top of the head from the rear view. I think you can re-spin with the camera at different heights if there are features that need to be viewed from different elevations. Using multiple cameras and a motorized turntable would be pretty cool, especially if the cameras were electronically triggered based on particular measured angles. The My3DScanner web site said it would also accept video rather than still shots. I am not sure if Autodesk will also process video, but that saves you the hassle of extracting frames.

    The “Reconstructme” program is cool since you get to watch the mesh build in real time while you move in front of the Kinect. The detail is not as good, but it looks very appropriate for 3D printing. I just received a Radeon HD 6850 (100 bucks on eBay), but now need to install a beefier power supply in my PC to run it. That GPU will drive Reconstructme perfectly according to their site. I look forward to scanning the heads of family and friends for printing. Asking them to hold still long enough for 50-60 still shots is probably out of the question, so a quick spin in an office chair in front of the Kinect sounds better. You just need a really good graphics card to make it work in real time. I will blog about it once I make it work.

  4. I tried to replicate your awesome results with 123D. It was a complete failure. I did the opposite contrast with a white cake icing “lazy susan” and white foam core background. Since I needed contrast, I tried a darker stuffed animal and my son’s Darth Vader piggy bank. I used a tripod and put the spinning object on a chair taking about 40 pics. I uploaded in 123D and it was totally confused. I tried opening up the f-stop and exposure to blowing out the white so only subject’s darker features showed. I also tried zooming in to not include a reference point in the background, and it still didn’t work. I’ll revisit soon with a black background. I just thought I’d post that white and 123D didn’t work so well 🙂

  5. I have purchased black cloth and plan to make a fancier setup with a motorized or stepper motor controlled base. I don’t know why a flat background did not work in white. I am still surprised by how well mine worked out, so maybe it was beginner’s luck. I should be trying again soon.

  6. Pingback: Automatic Image Collection for 3D Scanning with Autodesk 123D Catch | G. P. Le Sage Blog·

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