3D scanners are expensive. Even the cheapest will run you at least a few hundred dollars, and the more sophisticated, high-quality scanners can easily cost well over $10,000. Considering that 3D scanning technology suddenly seems to be everywhere, these high costs are undoubtedly demoralizing to the average maker. We rave about 3D scanners a lot here at 3DPrint.com, for which I won’t apologize, because 3D scanners are cool. You can do amazing things with them, from replicating ancient fossils to creating custom-fit clothing to solving crimes to the ubiquitous 3D printed selfie. I fully understand the frustration of being bombarded with news about awesome technology that you’re unable to afford, so I do apologize for feeding your scanner envy.
Let me make it up to you, though. What if I told you about a 3D scanner that’s not only affordable but partially open-source, and that you can build yourself? That’s what 3Digify is offering with a new Kickstarter campaign that will be running until next month. Why should 3D scanners be so expensive, the German company argues, when most people already have the equipment needed to build their own?
That equipment consists of two digital cameras, a projector and a computer; while you’ll need to provide those yourself, 3Digify will supply you with what you need to turn that equipment into a full 3D scanner, in the form of a software program that works in two parts. Connect the cameras and projector to your computer, set up the object you want to scan, and 3Digify Scan will capture it – all you have to do is turn the object, either manually or with a turntable. The second part of the program, 3Digifiy Reconstruct, turns the captured images into a 3D model.
It appears to work remarkably well. The 3Digify team presents several of their own scans on the Kickstarter page, and the results are impressive; their devices were able to capture more high resolution detail than the commercial scanners they tested. (You can check out their full gallery of scanned images here.) Pretty much any camera can be used, as long as it can be triggered remotely with your computer. 3Digify will be providing support for webcams and Nikon DSLR models in the early stages of release, with the promise that additional devices will be added continually – already, Canon EOS and Allied Vision Technologies GigE cameras are supported. Currently, a Windows operating system is also required.
If the campaign succeeds, 3Digify intends to make the software partially open source, allowing you to use specialized or exotic cameras or even incorporate 3D scanning into your own application. They’re also going to make the most basic version of the software available for free – you’ll be able to capture your image and compute a 3D mesh in common CAD file formats without paying a cent. The paid version, however, allows you to get the really nice features – high resolution, color, and more for a reasonable monthly subscription fee. A DIY kit will also be provided if you’d like to 3D print your own turntable.
The designers of 3Digify are certainly not amateurs. Dr. Johannes Köhler, Dr. Tobias Nöll, and Bernd Krolla hold PhDs in 3D Computer Vision (in Krolla’s case, he will be receiving his PhD shortly) and their research has been awarded a Google Research Award and an Autodesk best paper award. They’ve already developed several 3D scanners before creating 3Digify. Currently, they are presenting one of their devices at IT fair CeBIT, which is taking place in Hanover from March 14-18.
“Our booth is crowded with people most of the time and the positive feedback we get is overwhelming!” Dr. Köhler tells us. “We’re also showing some 3D prints of our scans and the visitors love the idea of object replication. The two exhibitors to our left and right are both showing 3D-printers, so people get a live demonstration of the entire scanning-printing process.”
The Kickstarter campaign is attempting to raise €60,000 ($66,902) by April 17. A contribution of only €30 ($33) will get you a month’s subscription to the full paid software version, plus a €10 discount after that. Higher pledges include larger discounts, extended free periods and early access, plus blueprints and source code for the 3D printable turntable. Early access awards are estimated to be delivered in May 2016, while regular access deliveries are slated for October. You can take a look at the Kickstarter video below. Are you considering backing this campaign? Discus in the Digify 3D Scanner forum over at 3DPB.com.