3D printing requires the use of 3D models. If you’re a good designer, you can make these by hand in your 3D modeling software of choice. This approach isn’t particularly approachable, however, especially for beginners. Thankfully, there are plenty of 3D models available that have already been made. If none of those fit what you want to make, however, then 3D scanning might be something you want to look into.
3D scanning allows you to create your own 3D models without needing as much creative ability. Instead, it requires you to have an object you want to scan, and some specific hardware, and in most cases software too. There are three main methods of 3D scanning: photogrammetry, laser scanning, and LIDAR/ToF.
Types Of 3D Scanning
Photogrammetry is the most simple form of 3D scanning. It simply requires you to take a large number of photos of an object and feed them into some photogrammetry software. The software will then scan through the images and stitch them together, not unlike how some panorama software works.
A typical number of photos needed for a reasonable model is 50, but this can vary based on the size of the object you’re scanning. You can rotate the camera around the object, or mount the object on a turntable and rotate the object instead.
Laser scanning involves scanning a laser over an object and then calculating the distances to each point. This is less approachable and more complex than photogrammetry as it requires specific hardware rather than just a decent camera. Typically the object to be scanned is placed in a closed box on a turntable, has the laser pointed at it, and rotates slowly.
LIDAR/ToF scanning is a bit different. LIDAR has typically been used in professional capacities in construction and planning roles. It involves a series of scanning lasers and uses them to determine the distance to the object. ToF or Time of Flight cameras are a subset of LIDAR that can actually be found on some smartphones.
They’re primarily included for augmented reality. However, they also work well for 3D model scanning. If you’ve already got a smartphone with a ToF camera, this is the easiest way to create 3D models. As with the other techniques, make sure that the entire surface of the object is captured.
Unfortunately, 3D scanning can’t reliably produce an immediately printable 3D model, so you’ll likely need to do some editing in 3D modelling software, this is, however, much less complex than making the models entirely by hand.
3D scanning like this is a great way to be able to create your own models. There are products that you can buy that offer this functionality. Alternatively, you can 3D print your own stand and turntable system and make your own 3D scanning station. If you start 3D scanning objects, what would you want to 3D scan and replicate with a 3D printer?