Mar 20, 2016 | By Alec

Theoretically, a 3D scanners and 3D printers are a perfect match. We can’t be the only ones in love with the idea that you can simply scan a broken component and easily 3D print a new one without having to invest the time in extensive CAD design. So why, you might ask, aren’t we seeing 3D scanners in every makerspace in the world? Though it is finally happening, 3D scanners aren’t coming down in price just as quickly as 3D scanners and it will probably take a few more years before a good quality option is available to the average hobbyist. So why not build your own? That is, essentially, what Alex of YouTube channel SuperMakeSomething has done: a DIY scanner packed with 3D printed components and off-the-shelf electronics.

SuperMakeSomething, of course, is one of the most enjoyable making channels on YouTube, and are always good for some inspiration for your next project. They have also just launched a new SuperMakeSomething website. Alex is especially good at making quite complex builds look super easy, that is also the case for this DIY 3D scanner, as you can see below.

If you can’t avoid the temptation, you’ll be happy to know it essentially consists of nothing more than a few off-the-shelf electronic components, with an infrared sensor acting as the main scanner. Aside from the sensor, it also contains two NEMA 17stepper motors, some motor plates, a threaded rod, two guideshafts, an IR sensor, and some electronics: an Arduino Pro Micro, a power connector, a push button, an infrared sensor, an SD card, and two stepper driver boards. Everything is connected with male and female header pins and screw terminals.

You will also need to build a custom PCB, for which the designs are available here. Alex used the excellent Eagle Freeware CAD software to design it, perhaps the easiest way to develop a PCB at home. While that is quite a challenge if you’ve never made it before, the web is filled with useful tutorials that will get you through that process. Much easier, however, is to simply order the designs through manufacturer Osh Park, where Alex uploaded the files. You can order them here – most of the hard work is already done for you!

The same goes for 3D printing: Alex has designed all components in SolidWorks CAD software, and has made them all available on Thingiverse here. There are just seven components (the mounting plate needs to be done twice) that need to be 3D printed, and should be compatible with most desktop FDM 3D printers out there – Alex used his MakerBot 3D printer. Total print time was about 10 hours.

Really the only challenge for the beginning maker is assembling the electronics and programming the Arduino, but here it’s largely a matter of following Alex’s excellent steps. He has even provided the Arduino code, meaning you’ll simply have to download the code and follow his tips. The code is fully capable of slowly turning the turntable and scanning the visible side of the object.

Using zip ties and screws, the whole setup can be easily assembled – a piece of cake for anyone who’s ever worked on slightly more complex builds before. Simply follow Alex’s steps, and almost nothing can go wrong. Just make sure all the electronics are placed and installed correctly, but even this is made easier with some instructions printed on the front of the board. Alex makes it all look so simple.

To use this DIY 3D scanner, simply use double-sized tape to stick the object in question to the middle of the turntable and plug in the power source. “The time it takes to scan an object depends on the parameters in the Arduino code, such as the desired angular resolution, number of scan samples per reading and the amount of time to pause between each turn of the turntable,” he explains. In the clip below, a scan was completed in about forty minutes – lightning speed if you’re used to a 3D printer.

The files, finally, can be found on the SD card and can be accessed using Matlab. The processing code for Matlab is also pre-written, and can be downloaded here. Alex’s code will ensure all data is converted to a conveniently 3D printable STL file, so you’re ready to continue making as quickly as possible. To be sure, the resolution of the final scan isn’t fantastic – the noise and resolution of the sensor greatly limits the scanning capacity, while a lot of filtering is required in Matlab to end up with a smooth 3D printable object. Though this can be improved (for instance with a laser range finder and optimizing settings), it is still without a doubt the most affordable and coolest DIY 3D scanner we’ve ever seen – definitely worth checking out.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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