Scanning the area
That alternative is Reconstruct Me which uses a depth sensor. Usually expensive custom hardware, but Microsoft's X-box Kinect has just the hardware: produced mass market and subsidised. It works by projecting a grid of quite large squares in infra red onto the scene and then looking at the distortion in the squares. If you point the Kinect sensor at a white object in a dark room and look at it with a mobile phone camera you can see the projected pattern. The resolution isn’t great but it’s workable.
The Xbox Kinect does more than you might think
The Kinect has a proprietary connector which plugs into a socket on newer X-boxes and which provides power as well as data. For older X-boxes which only have USB you need a power supply with the USB pass through. This serves our purposes of plugging the sensor into a PC very well. At around £120 quid for the sensor and power supply you have scanning hardware. You can pick up second hand hardware for around half that.
The Kinect API gives a point cloud of the image. This is where Reconstruct Me comes in. It takes the points and produces 3D meshes dynamically as you move around the target. There are other programs which support the Kinect but these produce images from static viewpoints and the meshes have to be stitched by hand.
It’s telling just how hobbyist this areas is, given that the slickest, easiest to use piece of scanning software runs in a DOS window with command line switches. There is no simple instal which looks at what your system needs and gets it for you. Instead you need to instal the Open NI drivers first. Then you need to make sure you have the Microsoft C++ runtime – including installing the x86 version on 64-bit systems and update your video drivers.
Most of the processing is done on the video card using OpenCL. Just checking under Windows devices to see if you have an up to date version isn’t good enough, you need to go to the card manufacturers website and force a download of the latest version.
ReconstructMe software has its CLI moments
The ReconstructMe software is incredible but is very light on documentation. Getting a good scan is pretty hit and miss. The default scan area is a cube of one metre and the nearest you can get to the object is 40 cm. This is a Kinect limitation. If you use Microsoft’s drivers instead of the OpenNI drivers that becomes 80cm, so you wouldn’t want to do that.
Next page: Seeing red
Re: I have to ask
It might not be 123D scan, but I heard that that has happened, and has been surreptitiously uploaded after adding a "shell" (in the shape of something innocuous) to the model, where the shell is too thin for any printer to actually produce.
i.e. download what you think is a statuette (for example), get penis.
Re: I have to ask
I'm sure there's a joke about a Trojan in there.
Sometimes in shopping centres you will see people selling little glass-like cubes containing tiny bubbles forming an image. Those that offer to place your own image in the cubes have a laser scanner that resembles a passport photo booth. The cubes start at around £10, and you should be to persuade them to let you have a copy of the .XYZ file if you have a memory stick.
It doesn't do the back of the head- or under the chin!- but 'hair' would need massaging before 3D printing anyway.
In El Reg's last 3d printing article, they made a small 2D vulture... since there is a stuffed vulture in the office, why haven't you scanned that with the Kinnet?
I must admit
I had a different vision of what this article was about with that title.
Wouldn't it be easier
To grab a bit of plastic and just chip away the bits that you don't want?