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.
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.