3D Scanning the FATHOM Team // Tips on 3D Printing Scans

june 20 14.jpg
3D Scanning Station 2

Snapping a FATHOM team photo has been on our to do list for a while since it's difficult to catch us all in the same place at the same time — fortunately because our customers keep us really busy and we thank you for that! The team finally got around to it this month, but instead of a picture day, we hosted a scan day! Randall Oglesby, one of FATHOM's customer support engineers, scanned each and every employee so our production team could 3D print all of us for display at our Oakland and Seattle offices. To tell you more about this office project, we sat down with Oglesby for a few questions. Learn more about how we scanned each employee, tips on 3D printing scans, and more in this week's featured Q&A. With so many 3D scanning systems and software available today, why did you choose to use a Kinect for this project?

Randall: A majority of the scanning solutions available today are not only expensive, but are limited to stationary objects. They are also primarily used for engineering purposes. These systems didn’t satisfy any of the requirements we needed. We needed a system that would not only be quick, easy and affordable, but it also had to provide quality results to match our Connex printers’ capabilities. This significantly lowered our options. I found that a software solution called Skanect offered the most intuitive and reliable experience. This software requires a Kinect for Windows to operate.

The set-up for this project is now a permanent part of the FATHOM office — what went into the actual construction of the new scanning station?

Randall: With a bit of help from our design and production teams, we printed a handle (Thingiverse download) for the Kinect and a custom designed tool for mounting the Kinect to an aluminum pole so we could adjust the height of the scanner for each person on our team. These FDM parts were all printed on our uPrint in the Oakland production center. We decided to keep the scanning station up all of the time for visitors, so the design team even put together awesome signage with instructions using our in-house laser cutting and vinyl equipment.

Can you tell us more about this technology and how it captures data as a 3D model?

Randall: The Kinect/Skanect offers a dynamic scanning solution. It uses an infrared laser in conjunction with a CMOS sensor that records the scanning subject at up to 30fps. This allows the user to either move the scanner around a person, or have a person stand in front of the scanner and turn around. We ended up getting better results with a stationary scanner while the person turns around in front of it.

Just seven months ago, Engadget posted an article on Digitizer and how the system makes 3D scanning accessible but not yet practical — how has the industry changed since last year and what systems are worth considering, from low-end to high-end?

3D Scans at FATHOM

Randall: Great question, the 3D scanning market is rapidly changing. 3D printing has come so far that people are now looking for new ways to create models. The Digitizer is a good option for amateur scanning, especially for the under $1,000 pricepoint. The David SLS-2 has an incredibly high resolution for under $3,000, after that the prices shoot up to approximately $15,000 and above. For the serious, high end scanning crowd, 3D3 Solutions has some fantastic high end scanners with unbelievable resolution.

3D scanning is a complex process and there is much to consider when prepping a file for 3D printing — what measures did you take to ensure each model was ready to print?

Randall: Luckily, the Skanect software has some great options to clean up your prints and export them to printable STL’s. In fact, most of our STL’s went directly from Skanect into our 3D printers. For the few scans that needed touching up, I was able to use netfabb to smooth out some of the lower quality scan surfaces and to repair some of the holes.

FATHOM has a lot of additive manufacturing technologies available and a variety of materials to choose from — why did the team 3D print the models on a Connex 3D printing system using VeroBlue?

Randall: We knew right away that we wanted to print our team in either VeroBlue or VeroGray. We ended up going with VeroBlue because it really showed off the intricate details of our teams faces and their hair. We chose the Connex to get us the high quality VeroBlue parts we wanted.

3D scanning and printing continue to attract national attention. Just last week, President Obama was scanned and printed for the White House Maker Faire. Like Obama, FATHOM was just having fun, but what are some practical uses of this technology?

Randall: The Kinect is a great entry level option for fun projects. FATHOM has quite a few partners and customers focused on advanced 3D scanning, companies who are leaders in their industry. From scanning statues and sculptures to land surveying and architecture, there are many professional use cases. Some of the most interesting examples come from the medical industry such as custom prosthetics.