Three-dimensional scanners are expensive – thousands of dollars for industrial models.Now there’s a 3-D 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 3-D scanning. It was invented by John Fehr, an inventor with a number of Kickstarter projects under his belt, including a magnetic catapult and 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 3-D 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. A demonstration video shows how it would work.
There are other apps out there that render 3-D 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 3-D models that one might use as input for a 3D printer. There are also companies that will provide 3-D 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.
Image: Cadabra Labs / YouTube