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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
You can download the SLT version of the scuplture from Thingiverse.
Here is what it looks like in Replicator.
Here is the Skeinforge output, ready for my 3D printer.
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.