If you haven't been living under a rock for the last few years you have probably heard all the cool stuff that is going on with 3d printing. We are now capable of printing almost anything provided we have a 3d model to work from. There are many ways to make a 3d model, but one of the coolest is to 3d scan an existing object. With a 3d scan and the right printer you can reproduce any object at any size from a house to an earring. You can also use the scan as a starting point for a new creation. Think of everything you can do with a picture in Photoshop. Now you can do that in 3d with real stuff as well.

The most amazing thing about 3d scanning is that you probably already own the best tool there is for it. It might be in your pocket, or you may be staring at it as we speak (so to speak. . .actually I'm writing and you are reading, but you know what I mean). This tool, which will allow you to capture the world in amazing 3d, is a simple camera. Combined with a little technique and some inexpensive or even free software, your camera becomes the world's most versatile 3d scanner. Stay tuned and I'll show you how.

Throughout this instructable you will find embedded 3d scans which you can explore thanks to our friends at Sketchfab. Just click on the white triangle to start, then you can experience the scan in 3d.

If you want to learn more about 3d scanning and printing be sure to check out my podcast "3d Printing Today". Its available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Step 1: How does this work?

The concept is simple. You take a bunch of photos of an object you want to capture. Every part of the object must appear in at least 3 photos to be captured. The photos are fed to a program which identifies individual spots on the object and, though a combination of trigonometry and dark magic, deduces their location in 3 dimensions. By identifying enough of these spots (sometimes literally millions of them) the program is able to make a digital reconstruction of the object, suitable for amazing your friends, embedding in your latest video game, or, sometimes, 3d printing.

Shooting the photos takes a bit of practice. You don't need to be the next Ansel Adams, but it is helpful if your photography experience goes beyond shooting selfies.

The software is pretty easy to get started with. Most of the free packages don't offer many options which makes them easy to use when they work. The more sophisticated systems can take as much time and money as you want to give them, but can reward you with amazing results.

<p>Autodesk Memento is now known as Autodesk ReMake and there is a monthly fee of $30 ($300 yearly)</p>
thanks for all the useful tips....<br><br>I got ROCAL to tweak their faultline &quot;developer&quot; spray for 3d scanning.<br><br>&quot;developer&quot; is a micro-thickness white spray used fo detecting cracks in metal castings and welds... it is a very thin sprayed surface the is matt white and gives excellent detail recognition in 3d scanning and photography... whats more, it is easily removable with water.<br><br>rocol Developer is currently (3 jan 2017) around &pound;23 ($28) a can and will treat hundreds of square footage of 3d &quot;target&quot; objects....<br><br>I find photography against a green background (I use dull mid green paper) produces the best definition.<br><br>malcolm
​great article BUT Agisoft photoscan... which version &quot;standard&quot; or &quot;pro&quot; ?<br><br>&quot;pro&quot; is 20x the price of &quot;standard&quot;
<p>If you have to ask, you most likely can't afford it ;) I haven't tested this yet but the standard seems good enough for models, pro has stull like geolocation and measuring and professional stuff and if you want to do 4D / motion capture. Here is a comparison: http://www.agisoft.com/features/compare/</p>
I have to ask because I want to know.....<br><br>I could afford either package but its a complete waste of time and money to pay excessive prices for features you neither want nor need.<br><br>in THIS case the decision is based simply on whether it will successfully and adequately produce quality models for 3d printing with ease and precision (ease is a relative term)... I do not need anything more and neither do most people, so excessive features are probably a waste.<br><br>in my case... consider scanning a vehicle rear view mirror to make a replacement &quot;shell&quot;.... I use this as example because it is a complex shape and being attached to a vehicle it cannot be put on a &quot;normal&quot; scanner<br><br>malcolm
<p>@malcomsmill - you might consider adding some kind of texture or dots to the shell before scanning it, since otherwise the smooth surface has very little information for the scanner to pick up on &amp; triangulate.</p>
<p>I've thought about that too - probably you'd want to make the surface dull and less shiny as well. So maybe something like a powder that adds a few random dots that you can brush on and then easily wipe off again. But just speculating.</p>
<p>Sorry, malcom, was just a joke :) You know when you're at a fancy restaurant with no prices on the menu? If you have to ask, you probably can't afford. Not sure if that is actually an idiom or just my personal insider joke that stuck with me haha.</p><p>I'm pretty sure they have a trial version for limited time, maybe even for the pro version. So you can test and maybe even export on trial. But for your case the standard version should be good enough. Plus you can ugrade to pro from standard.</p>
<p>The standard version works fine for this. There are a few features in the pro version which could be useful, but they aren't worth the price for most of us.</p>
<p>Wonderful......This gives me enough information to get me started and excited about the possibilities. Curious if this same technology could be used to create the program for a CNC machine.</p>
<p>The scan produces a 3d mesh which with the right software can be used to produce a CNC tool path. I do it all the time with my 3d printers. But there is no reason you can't use it to program another CNC machine.</p>
<p>Here are some links to some open source sites or some that charge very little if you all are looking for some other options.</p><p><a href="http://www.makerscanner.com/" rel="nofollow">http://www.makerscanner.com/</a></p><p><a href="http://www.photomodeler.com/index.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.photomodeler.com/index.html</a></p><p><a href="http://www.open-electronics.org/kinect-for-3d-scans/" rel="nofollow">http://www.open-electronics.org/kinect-for-3d-scan...</a></p><p><a href="http://reconstructme.net/" rel="nofollow">http://reconstructme.net/</a></p><p>I hope this helps.</p>
This would be fantastic for anyone into model railroads.
404 Not Found<br>/files/orig/FF8/DN7S/IKJ8627B/FF8DN7SIKJ8627B.embed_rich was not found on this server.<br><br>Resin Professional 3.0.28 (built Mon, 18 May 2009 02:21:41 PDT)
The sketchfab site works fine.
<p>Sorry the embedded scans aren't working for you. Everything works fine for me so I don't know what I can do to fix it. You can find all the linked scans on my sketchfab page https://sketchfab.com/shapespeare/models . Hopefully you can look at them there.</p>
They are great on sketchfab.com. <br>However, the link is to instructables.com not sketchfab.com. <br>Try clearing the cache of the browser and click the links again. Here is the Nikon link: http://www.instructables.com/files/orig/FF8/DN7S/IKJ8627B/FF8DN7SIKJ8627B.embed_rich<br>
<p>Having the same problem, the models don't link from instructables (Mozilla) but work fine when I go directly to sketchfab but unfortunately that means you don't know which model relates to which part of the instructable.</p><p>I opened the instructable in Vivaldi and everything works fine. The issue could be with my security settings in Mozilla as sketchfab is obviously trying to load some code which Mozilla may think is potentially dangerous.</p>
<p>The point of this article is that you don't need hardware 3D scanners and that they are basically a scam by now.</p>
<p>what is software and where to get/buy to upload pictures and gat scanned 3d model? I am missing it in whole story...please direct me where to for this software.thank you.</p>
<p>Taked 50shots with Smarthphone and a small subject rotating on the head of the tripod. THe smartphone had a tripod too. Cropped the images...used memento...NOTHING, i've obtained only a &quot;flat-3D&quot; background with the ghost of the object :D What is wrong?</p>
<p>Try walking around the object while shooting rather than rotating it. Any details in the background that don't rotate with the object will screw up the scan. Also don't crop your pictures that will cause problems as well.</p>
<p>What do you think about to use turntable and for ex white board as a background in this case?</p>
After the first page, all images present a 404 Error
<p>Those are links to 3d scans on sketchfab. Make sure your browser will show sketchfab. It is working fine for me.</p>
Everything after the shoe is ok too.
The shoe images are showing up ok
<p>golden days.</p>
<p>Thank you for this!!! I had no idea this tech existed. I'm having fun in Memento right now. </p>
<p>I use memento too! is awesome.</p>
<p>Made me very eager to try 3D scanning! Haven't got a printer but some experience with 3D-modelling so that would be very cool. I might have missed it but did you mention how important/unimportant it is to have (roughly) the same distance to the object that's being scanned? Thanks for the Instructable!</p>
<p>The modern software doesn't seem to care as long as everything is in sharp focus. I usually make an overall pass to capture the general shape of an object and then move in and capture areas of specific interest.</p>
Impressive, now I got interested in photogeometry too!... Thanks for replying! :)
<p>Hi,</p><p>Good work on this tutorial.</p><p>One question: in past projects (not 3d scanning related, but using a lot of photo and video computational math) I&acute;ve found that correcting for the lens distortion helped immensely. Have you tried? It is computationally cheap and only requires (maximum) 1 calibration per lens/camera combination. On close range the distortion can be huge, and even in ranges of a few meters it is still enough to mess up many algorithms :-)</p>
Agisoft used to have a stand alone calibration program but I haven't seen it in a while so it may be deprecated. Most software handles this automatically. They typically read the EXIF metadata from each image and make their calibration based on that.
Thanks! It is good to know we need an step less in preparing the pictures :-)<br>Cheers
<p>Is there a solidworks equavalent to Autodesk Memento?</p>
I don't think the solidworks folks have ventured into photo scanning. I understand you can import an stl mesh into solidworks as you can with most modern solid modelers. But you are rather limited with what you can do with it. It doesn't become a parametric model. 3d systems sells a package called Geomagic which will supposedly will reverse engineer a parametric model out of a scan, but I'm told its price makes solidworks look like shareware.
<p>Thanks, do you think you could list all the software you do know that does this? That may be a good addition to your instructable as well.</p>
<p>There is a very complete list at </p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_photogrammetry_software">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_photog...</a></p>
<p>Cool, thanks.</p>
<p>This is very cool and would like to try i havent got a 3d printer but am sure i can get someone to print it for me <br>but would this work on car? <br>I like adding mods to my car and would be great to get a 3d printed version of it :) </p>
<p>In principle it will work on anything, but your car presents challenges. Some parts are shiny and the interior may be difficult to access. You will also need to calibrate your scans possibly including a reference object to help.</p>
its more of the outside of car I would like to scan and I see what you mean with the car being so shiny hmmmmm what do you mean by reference objects buddy? :)
<p>Photoscans are internally accurate but lack an absolute scale. Your car is captured in perfect proportion, but the scan can't record how big it is. You can calibrate this by measuring features on the car and scaling the model to match, or by putting a yard stick next to the car and capturing it in the same scan. The yardstick is usually easier to measure accurately than anything on the car which typically involves curves.</p>
<p>Hello this is a very interesting discussion. I never used a camera for scans, and I am ready to do, but for what have understood, there is a big difference between the &quot; external appearance&quot; of the scan and its mesh. Photogrammetry scans are smart but with low quality mesh as result: put hands on with an external graphic software is a hard stuff, unless you use one hundred high level cameras in a box. The result of the house taken by drone is visible, is very different from a Faro laser scanning.</p><p>I use Artec scanner, yes is expensive, but i can obtain a mesh like below: are sure to have with a camera? This is what must be told. Price has a reason, although I can be wrong.</p>
<p>You are right that a pretty scan doesn't mean an accurate mesh. See the last step of this indestructible for a nice graphic on that. .Artec scanners are great and in the right hands can produce very nice results. So can photogrammetry at a small fraction on the cost. Check out http://blog.lidarnews.com/a-comparison-of-laser-scanning-and-photogrammetry/ for a favorable comparison with LIDAR scanning.</p>
<p>Thank you Shakespeare, for me this is the year of understanding Photogrammetry and this is a good starting point, It's a great forum.</p><p>Yes the central point is what you must do with a scan. If you keep the scan as it is and do not need sending to Zbrush to modify, photos are perfect for a fraction of price ( nobody is happy to spend money for a good scanner..), because mesh is really flat. Also, if you need to scan flowers as frederic.devilloutreys shows ( fantastic ), photos are the only method, because any scanner on the market can catch a complete leave. For a &quot; post production &quot; of the scan, real scanners.</p>
<p>Very nice! Thanks!<br><br>Let's suppose you want to scan a small object with hollow areas, in a controlled environment, a l&agrave; lightbox. Is that actually a good idea? What kind of background would yield best results? A single, contrasting color? Or maybe a checkered pattern?</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I make custom copper signs, metalwork and prototypes. I am one of the hosts of the "3d Printing Today Podcast", available on iTunes.
More by shapespeare:Make 3d Printed Topo Maps of Anywhere Create a Voronoi Version of Anything Make Minecraft heart cookies with help from a 3d printer 
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