Oct 2, 2015 | By Alec

It will hardly take a lot of effort to convince our readers that 3D is just so much more fun than 2D, and especially when something is made tangible. That notion is the bedrock of 3D printing itself. It’s therefore hardly surprising that even photography – which is also expanding exponentially in today’s world – is now even looking towards 3D printed selfies, for which ten scanning booths just opened in the Netherlands. However with an eye on getting the best possible quality, Japanese designer Ken Kawamoto has just shared a very intriguing alternative method for getting high resolution ‘3D printed’ photographs, relying on 3D cameras and regular photographic paper.

Ken Kawamoto is a very tech-savvy employee at Google’s Tokyo branch in Japan, but he also runs a very interesting (English language) blog where he posts some very fun creations quite frequently. But the latest is surely one of the most impressive, as these 3D photographs can perhaps best seen as an ingenious combination of 3D photography, CAD software and plain old printing. A modern take on pop-up style pictures, if you will.

As he explains, the idea grew out of his own experience as a father. ‘As a parent, one of the things I like about owning a depth camera (like a Kinect or an Asus Xtion) is that you can take 3D photos of your child,’ he writes on his blog. ‘This is great for immersing in old memories using things like the Oculus Rift, but has the problem that you can't easily print them out and prop them up on your office desk, as you would do for normal photos.’ One option he did look into was 3D printing the photos, but he was never pleased with the results – the resolution was low, the print was very expensive, and they can’t be carried around in a wallet or mailed to your parents.

The solution was found in the classic concept of popup cards or books, that you might have for your kids. The method for making these is remarkably simple, as Ken explains. ‘I created a program that automatically generates popup cards from 3D point cloud data (collected from an Xtion),’ he says. While he hasn’t yet gotten round to sharing that simple program, he will in the near future, and assures us that it is very simple to use. Just take a 3D photo of your kid or cat and cluster 3D points into several distinguishable layers. ‘At the point cloud consists of individual coloured points floating in 3D space, which you can't just print onto paper. Therefore you need to somehow reorganize the points into planes,’ he explains.

Simply clustering these points in relation to distance from the camera makes it easy to distinguish separate layers that come from spatially close objects. The layers must then be merged into a single card. ‘Now that the point cloud is composed of planes, we can just merge them onto a single card, offsetting one layer from another slightly so that there's a 3D effect when they're cut out,’ he says. While it takes a bit of CAD cleaning work as well, the process is actually remarkably simple.

Afterwards, it’s just a matter of printing the card on quality photograph paper, and carefully cutting out the front figure along the red dotted lines. ‘The photo quality of the cards is somewhat low (because of the quality of the Xtion camera), but I hope you see that having a 3D popup card literally adds a new layer of expressibility compared to ordinary photos,’ the pleased designer says. 'Taking 3D photos of your family on occasions is highly recommended. They're great ways to look back on old memories.’



Posted in 3D Printing Applications





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