How to Teleport! Free 3D Scanning and Cheap 3D Printing!




About: Bilal Ghalib is interested in doing things that surprise him and inspire others. Let's create a future we want to live in together.

Teleportation is awesome. Transporting material instantly from once location to another will change the world. Local bands will have global tours, truck drivers will not have jobs, food wont spoil on shelves while others go hungry, and fewer people will listen to podcasts on their way into work.

Many cultures have their own stories of lightning speed travel, teleportation and apparition. Muslims have the concept of Tay Al Ard, which comes from the words for folding of the earth, to excite them. Geeks have Star Trek's Transporter to inspire and scientsits have been working on teleporting information.

There have even been patents granted to teleportation technologies. Which if you're up for the chalenge, I dare you to try to build this US patent.

We will be talking about a different kind of teleportation. One that is accessible to the average person today (given they have a spare $1,500 or so) and seems poised to change the way we look at physical products. The general idea is to scan an object, turn it into a digital file and send it over the internet to be reproduced elsewhere. This is not as fast as folding the earth, but it's still a speedy way to deliver and iterate.

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Step 1: Materials

Materials you'll need.
  1. A windows machine
  2. To download and install 123D catch
  3. To download and install Meshmixer
  4. To download and install either Rhinoceros, Blender, or 123D.
  5. A 3D printer. Two "low cost" options are: Makerbot or the UP. If you're up for a kit and are excited by open source businesses go for the Makerbot! If you just want to buy something and get printing go for the UP.
  6. The software necessary for the variety of 3D printer you purchased. Replicator G, Pleasant3D are helpful.
  7. A camera. Any DSLR would be great, but even point and shoots will work.

Step 2: Take Photographs of the Object to Teleport

The process you'll use to gather the physical dimensions of your object is called photogrammetry and in order to pick up on its shape you'll need to take many photographs from many angles. Here are some tips:
  • Use strong indirect light
  • Take your photographs sequentially and in a circle around your object. Not up and down.
  • Use low ISO for the low grain
  • Take photos with a larger field of view3 Megapixel maximum resolution will be used by catch, so you don't need to go higher.
  • High shutter speeds (you don't want blur)

Step 3: 2D-3D Transformation

Load your images up on your computer and open up Catch. Click "Create a new photo scene" and load up your pictures. Click upload and here I suggest you have it email you when it asks. It takes up to two hours to process a set of photos.

Now sit back and let Autodesk's cloud servers do all the hard work of figuring out all the geometry! This is why we invented computers :D

Step 4: Clean Up Your Scan

You have by now received an email saying it has successfully created a 3D mesh! Exciting! HOLY CRAP. Your photographs have magically been upgraded!

Download this file and open it up in Catch. Click in the circle in the center and realize now that this is not just a photograph, but a full 3d navigable model with a SKIN! AWESOME!!!

Check out the video:

Click export and save this as an STL.

Open up Meshmixer. This will let you delete the rest of the scene and leave the object you want to transport alone. Your objective is to select and delete all the rest of the scene and leave the object your interested in alone.

In Mesh Mixer here are some tips and the process to getting a clean object out:
  • Press control and click and drag to move around
  • Press control and click and drag with your right mouse button to zoom in and out
  • Click select in the upper right corner, click "Switch to lasso mode" and rope the parts you want
  • Once you have your object highlighted in orange click "Modify Selection" and click invert
  • Now click "Edits" in the top left side and use "Erase and Fill"
  • You can now click export and export a cleaned up version of your 3D scan!
This should give you a solid object representing the object you want to teleport. It should be mostly ready to print. You can grab my Arjuna file to test if your scan didn't work. Now, let's take it to the printers!

Step 5: Print It!

Depending on your 3D printer the instructions will vary, but the general process goes as such:

1) Open your model in your 3D printers software
2) Slice the model into layers
3) Send it off to be printed to your machine

If properly built, calibrated, fed, and groomed your 3D printer will print out your object like this:

So there you have it. You've taken an object and transported it digitally elsewhere and it again became a physical object. Imagine 30 years of progress in 3D printing/scanning technology. It has become consumer level, the cost is coming way down and open sourced projects are involving many creative people from around the world to get together to build, update, remix their own machines. The future is going to be awesome, try some teleportation today and let's figure out where this technology is going together!

And when you do scan it, publish it online! On instructables, thingiverse, 123dApp! I published my model and within the day someone had downloaded it, fixed it even more and shared it again! Be a part of the 3D printing community!

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    23 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Thank you, it helps!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    If anyone figures out how to make that us patent, make an ible, please!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    What do you think may work better: leave the model standing and taking pictures moving the camera, or leave the camera steady and rotate the model... it may be the same I guess.. but.. who knows


    7 years ago on Step 2

    How many shots do I need to take? 7-8, 20-25? Does more pics = better reproduction? Should I try to keep the same level of elevation as I circle the object? Thanks for this instuctable. It should be lots of fun.


    7 years ago on Step 4

    "Click export and save this as an STL."
    I can export to dwg, fbx, rzi, obj, ipm, las, and save as 3dp.
    Look like they removed STL export feature from 123D Catch so the chain is broken.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

    Meshmixer can import OBJ too, so you could use that instead of STL (Actually you are better off with OBJ as it includes shared vertices!)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Actually, when it comes to the subject of being able to reproduce stuff (even just the shape/looks of it), I would be willing to say $2,600 IS cheap. Just think how much it would cost if you were able to somehow modify this and make it able to reproduce edible food (I'm not that familiar with this kind of technology, and don't know if that would actually be possible, but still).
    And to think you can send the object long distance to someone else...


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Dude, speaking as a truck driver AND an avid Trek fan....what you have there is a replicator, NOT a transporter. Find a way for me to download and reproduce Kate Beckinsale and I'm all over this. Stop wishing for an end to my livelihood for at least twenty-five more years, please.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Just a slight disclaimer I think I should mention: companies will hate you if you do this with anything protected by intellectual property laws and publish the replica.

    This is an awesome idea, and a good instructable, but misuse of this will probably result in legal problems.

    Think SOPA crossed over into real objects.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice. You should add more info in the step about Catch and a link to it. It looks interesting!

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, I missed step one :D I was looking for the info in step 3. My bad

    So true. Phone companies NEVER HAVE come up with a practical personal video phone, now, have they.. yet skype, yahoo messenger, etc.. Well, their loss.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I've seen this thing in action and it's pretty awesome to know that custom plastic parts can be replicated within hours.