Use Your Smartphone as a 3D Scanner
Three-dimensional scanners are expensive – thousands of dollars for industrial models. Now there’s a 3D scanner for your phone, which does many of the things industrial models do for only $300.
The app, Moedls, runs on an iPhone and iPad and uses a consumer-quality laser, a turntable and a simple box to do professional-level 3D scanning. It was invented by John Fehr, an inventor with a number of Kickstarter projects under his belt, including a magnetic catapultand a levitating magnet sculpture
Fehr told Discovery News that one of the hardest parts to get was actually the turntable. “It’s hard to find a platform that turns slowly and steadily enough,” he said. Before finding a manufacturer in China he tried using one from an old record player.
A user sets up a phone on a tripod and then puts the object she wants to scan on the turntable. A small laser light points at the object and lights up a thin slice of it. The laser light functions a bit like a camera flash, providing a really bright source so the camera can photograph that part of the object. As the object turns, the camera takes more pictures and eventually you have a 3D rendering. The current software is still awaiting approval from Apple to appear in the App Store and there is an Android version under development as well. The demonstration video above shows how it would work.
There are other apps out there that render 3D images using a smartphone’s own cameras – some models have a two-camera system that allows for depth perception – but they aren’t as versatile for storing 3D models that one might use as input for a 3D printer. There are also companies that will provide 3D renderings from your photos using sophisticated (and expensive) modeling software, but that isn’t as exact.
The project was one of the entrants to Engadget’s “Insert Coin” competition, which showcases do-it-yourself projects and those that need funding to become reality.