3-D modelling is maturing fast. Increasingly affordable solutions are not only raising general awareness of 3D workflows but revolutionizing design, engineering and manufacturing processes. The case in point is German-based David-laserscanner - a system that lets users turn everyday objects into 3D models at a low cost.

David-laserscanner currently offers two types of scanning units. The first uses a laser pen, (usually but not exclusively) a web camera, and a back board setup with known points on each facade. The points appear behind the object and are recognized by the software as part of the scanning process.

The second system uses the same type of camera (with plain board used for calibration only) and a projector, which projects a pattern on the surface of the object scanned. It is this process - known as structured light scanning - which enables the software to recognize the shape of the surface via the pattern projected on it. The iPhone app, Trimensional - a development stemming from Georgia Institute of Technology - uses the same principle in its 3D workflow.

The David Start Kit can scan objects 10 mm - 400 mm (0.4" - 15.7") in size to a known accuracy of 0.5 percent in 40 seconds. David SLS -1 can scan slightly bigger objects,10 mm - 600 mm (0.4" - 23.6"), to a known accuracy of 0.2 percent in 2 - 4 seconds. Custom built systems allow for the capture of larger objects.

These PDF files show the results of scanning a Darth Vader action figure and a motorcycle model using the David system.

The two ready made kits are available at the David-laserscanner online shop. One priced at €449 (US$550) and the other at €1775 (US$2180). A USB stick with a copy of the professional version of the software is €329 (US$405). The files can be exported in .obj, .ply and .stl formats. The latter is a standard format used for 3D printing.

3D Laser Scanner Requirements

  • A camera (e.g. web cam)
  • A hand-held line laser (starting at €19.90)
  • Two plain boards in the background
  • A Windows PC

Structured Light Scanner Requirements

  • A camera (e.g. web cam)
  • A projector
  • Two plain boards (for calibration only)
  • A Windows PC

The video below from Tinkernut.com demonstrates how to build your own laser scanner and use the free software offered by David. In the example highlighted, the figure of a robot is captured using the free version of the software and additional processing is done in Blender - an open source 3D modelling package. More information on the latter, along with downloads of the modelling package, can be found at Blender.org.

View gallery - 7 images