It’s sure been a lot fun printing 3D designs created by Garden Street Academy students and staff, but how cool would it be to print yourself? Getting ready for the new school year, we’ve amped up the “Whoa, that’s awesome!” factor by doing just that.
We recently received a 3D scanner–a device that attaches to an iPad and allows us to create 3D models of objects as small as eight inches and as large as ten feet. It’s a structured light sensor, which means it sends out low-power infrared laser beams in a gridded pattern and interprets how the beams reflect back. It’s the same technology behind Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect.
John Gomm advocated for a 3D scanner last spring when we decided to create the makerspace. We pre-ordered Occipital’s Structure Sensor soon afterward, and we waited with baited breath until it was delivered a few weeks ago. We’ve been having a lot of fun since the staff returned from summer break. As you can see from the image at the top of the post, John has been scanning and printing busts of staff all week.
3D scans can also be viewed in a web browser on sites like Sketchfab, where you can rotate the object and zoom in to see more detail. Below are textured scans of John Gomm and yours truly.
What’s amazing is that these scans only take a couple of minutes, and they’re quite accurate. The above models of me and John were scanned by an app called ItSeez3D. This app combines the infrared scanner with photos taken by the iPad’s camera to create a photo-realistic model using a texture map. However, the resolution of the 3D data seems to be a bit lower than using the Structure Scanner app which only creates non-textured models.
Documenting student work
One of the cool applications of a 3D scanner is to help document student work. In addition to painting and drawing, our students also create 3D artwork such as fashion, pottery, sculptures. Instead of a photo of a dress created in our Fashion Design elective, our students can now scan the dress and model so that every detail can be viewed from anywhere at anytime.
As a quick test, I tried to scan a large origami crane created by Leane, our Lower School sports and PE facilitator. She teaches a two-week origami elective in the spring semester to our K-8 students.
The crane wasn’t scanned under ideal circumstances and the software still needs some work, but it worked well enough to give pretty good idea of the crane’s structure. The crane’s small size is also on the lower end of the scanner’s abilities.
There are many other possibilities. Patrick Faulk, our new Upper Art facilitator, will be teaching an industrial design and sculpture course this year. Projects from this class will make great (if not challenging) 3D subjects. For our play productions, we can scan our actors in their costumes. Robots built by our makerspace will make good subjects as well. Patti Strout, our Lower School Technology Specialist, began experimenting with augmented reality with our iPads last spring. The 3D scanner can “augment” the augmented reality activities even more.
There are some limitations to the scanner. It doesn’t work well outdoors. The sun washes out the signal from the infrared laser, but that’s the price you pay for using a laser that’s safe for eyes. Reflective objects, like those made of metal, can also be challenging to scan. Furthermore, small elements like shoe laces or flower stems don’t scan very well either.
The scanner can be easily attached to a 4th generation iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Mini. Some have used and iPhone 5S to scan as well. It will work on Android devices, but you have to purchase a separate “hacker” usb cable. Also, the company doesn’t yet manufacture a bracket for any Android devices. Incidentally, the Structure Sensor scanner was a Kickstarter project.
Another company, Cubify, also has a very similar scanner: the iSense scanner. In fact, the iSense is made and licensed by Occipital, but the accompanying software is supposed to be more developed.
Despite the limitations, this is a very powerful piece of hardware. We’re only just beginning to discover what it can do. No doubt its capabilities will improve as developers refine and create new scanning apps.