Nov 5, 2015 | By Alec

It’s one of those things that sound great on paper, but lose their appeal once you check your wallet: 3D scanning. After all, the concept of quickly 3D scanning an object and 3D printing a replica is very appealing, but currently available equipment quickly costs hundreds of dollars. Well, this easy making technique is about to become a whole lot easier and affordable, if a new announcement by South Korean research Institute ETRI is to be believed. They have developed two cool 3D scanning devices that both quickly generate 3D printable files: a user friendly, high quality handheld 3D scanner and a very low cost smartphone attachment for easy 3D scanning.

These fascinating handheld 3D scanning concepts have come out of the research pipeline of the South Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) and have been demonstrated at the K-ICT 3D Printing Conference 2015 in Seoul earlier this week. This new form of handheld 3D scanning technology for 3D printing purposes utilizes a series of design functions and tools to make the 3D scanning available for regular users too, its developers said. Remarkably, development only started a year ago, but they are already ready to share results with the rest of the world.

Of course, the handheld device received most of the attention. Essentially, it’s a convenient data generation tool that you can wave at objects and is packed with handy functions – simulation tools, scanning, content creation and more – many of which were already demonstrated at the event. The ETRI researchers explained that their technology relies on graphical user interface (GUI) design functions that are accessible and familiar for regular users such as you and I; think scroll bars, height/width attributes and target models. As such design alteration can be done through a few taps and so on.

The 3D scanning function itself is quick and powerful, relying on multiple cameras and line lasers, as well as geometric correction tools. Through precise real-time detection functions, simulations and 3D scanned results are quickly realized, while the tool is also equipped with options for checking stability and durability before 3D printing. All of this is intended to ensure that non-professional users can get the most out of this "content-authoring, 3D scanning and simulation" software. Not only is the gathered data optimized for 3D printing, they say, users will also find it less difficult to make designs ready for printing.

As the research team explains, many existing 3D scanners take the structured light technology from the KINECT system, but they were instead looking for a Korean-made solution focused solely on 3D printing. ‘In order to commercialize 3D printing, ETRI’s research team developed the low-cost handheld 3D scanner by relying solely on domestic technology for the entire process, from camera manufacturing to the image processing engine. This scanner is capable of retrieving high-precision 3D data regardless of the size of subjects,’ they explain. Reports are suggesting that the handheld 3D scanner will cost about 1 million Won, or approximately $900 USD – still far less than many existing high quality scanners and definitely not bad for a machine with a precision of down to 0.1 mm. The Koreans argue that it will be a perfect tool for use in professional and academic environments.

But most of us low-budget users will be far more interested in the smartphone attachment they have also manufactured. The same technology is being leveraged into the development of this tool that essentially transforms a smartphone into a 3D scanner. ‘We plan to make more mobile apps and cloud services for non-professionals in order to make 3D printing an everyday resource for people at school or work,’ ETRI said.

While still under development, this mobile scanner tool could cost as little as 20,000 Won, or about $18 USD. For that money, it becomes an unmissable part of any maker’s arsenal. Korean reports are suggesting that this circular laser device will initially be intended for top level iPhones and for currently unknown Androids, and will be very easy in use. Scan an object, check the results on screen, and send to your 3D printer. ‘This mobile 3D scanner that is being developed will complement precision drawing in the near future, while making 3D printing easier. Like the bigger and better handheld scanner, this smartphone option should be good enough for small businesses and startups, though the Koreans are also envisioning educational applications.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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