3D scanning services - its not idiot-proof!

Just point, pull the trigger and scan, right? Not so fast.

Now let’S face it, we can’t all be experts at everything,

right? One who may be skilled in the art of glass blowing or transmission
repair, may also be a technically challenged when it comes to performing 3d
scanning services. And there is nothing wrong with that. But it begs the
question, are there any 3D scanners out there that are so simple that even an absolute
idiot could do it? So easy to use that a toddler can master it on the first
try? To tell you the truth we are not sure, so in this article we explore the
subject by looking at several types of instruments used for 3D scanning services
and assigning them Idiot Quotient rating between 1 and 10 (10 being the most idiot-proof).
 Note that we are only looking at
professional grade scanners here; there are plenty of consumer level 3D
scanners on the market now that may indeed be tailored to the half-witted individual.

First, we look at the Leica BLK360, the i-phone for 3D scanning
service providers. Its sleek and sexy, practically fits in your pocket (well
not quite but it is small) and only has a single button. Surely this is the
idiot-proof scanner we’ve been looking for, right? Well almost. The button push
itself is quite easy, and the scan that happens after you push the button is
automatic so you just stand back and watch (like any long range LIDAR scanner).

leica BLK360
Leica BLK360

But in reality, there is some complex preparation that goes into getting
everything ready to push that one button. Batteries are charged, an iPad must
be properly licensed and configured, and the scanner has its own unusual tripod
mount that must be used, or adapted to if using a generic tripod. And that is
just what happens before the button push. Afterward, getting the scan off the
scanner requires some expertise. And none of this mentions the wisdom and
planning that went into providing the 3d scanning service, the placement of the
scanner, how the data will be used, etc. There are limitations to its resolution
 and quality compared to more expensive 3d
scanning services, and one could find themselves disappointed if they are comparing
the point cloud data to higher end scanners. So while that one button push is
truly idiot-friendly, the likelihood of an idiot getting useful information out
of it is slim. So in this case, the idiot must be accompanied by a “brain” type
person to prepare and plan, which really defeats the purpose here. So it turns
out our little sleek i-phone like scanner is actually moderately
complicated to use.  IQ: 4

Let’s have a look at the Artec Eva. Shaped like a clothing

iron with a nice ergonomic handle and a single button, you just pull the
trigger and wave it around to scan, right? How hard could that be? Well as is
the case with other handheld scanners such as the Creaform Handyscan, the
videos make it look easy. And in many ways, it is easy, in the right hands. But in truth a beginner with no training would likely have a hard time scanning anything at all.

artec eva scanner
Artec Eva

 It is not that they are difficult to use, but there is a knack to it and certain things you have to be mindful of before using it for 3d scanning services. These include keeping the correct distance

between the scanner and  part and being mindful
of how the scanner tracks its position. Any idiot can push the button, but
getting good information requires some skill, practice and knowledge about how
the scanner works. There is also some setup requiring custom software
installation, licensing and scanner calibration. Unfortunately our thick-headed
friend will not be participating in these, rendering the scanner all but useless
for 3d scanning services. IQ: 4

 Now let’s consider a structured light scanner such as the Evatronix

HD Quadro. It has a turntable. It has a projector/camera unit. How hard could
that be? You put the part on the turntable, turn everything on and start offering
3d scanning services, right? If everything is set up right, yes it really is that simple. In fact large batches of parts can be scanned with very low effort, especially when the parts are all similar.

Structured light scanner on tripod

 But unfortunately, reaching that nirvana state of structured light scanning does not come easy. The

Evatronix scanners are fine examples of structured light scanners, but we are
here to tell you that structured light scanners (the good ones) practically
require their own college degree to get good results from. OK I exaggerate, but
they definitely require a lot of training, practice and patience to get dialed
in. If our beloved cretin flips the scanner on, no good will come from this
beyond some light finger dexterity exercises. He will not be prepared to deal
with the multitude of variables such as focus, depth of field, calibration,
exposure, targeting, projector brightness and others, all of which must be
precisely managed. On the flip side though, once mastered, these types of
scanners are exceedingly great to use and provide high quality, accurate 3D
scanning services with relative ease. IQ: 2

Finally, we examine the good old Faro Arm, or other brand CMM

arm such as the Kreon. You watch Jay Leno’s show and think, “wow, you just
point the laser and zip it around to scan the part, how hard could that be?”
Well I’m sorry to break the news to you, but a lot of things look better on TV
than in real life. Did you really think that you could cook lasagna in that NuWave
hot air cooker? A CMM scanner arm is about the best thing out there in our
opinion. It is accurate, reliable, durable and very versatile. But one thing it

is not is idiot-proof. The deceptive thing is that once it is set up, nearly
anybody can pick it up, pull the trigger and start scanning. However the
chances of our dearly beloved horse-toothed ignoramus getting a useable result
on the first try are extremely slim. 

Faro CMM Arm

 I liken it to the use of a paint sprayer.

Anyone can squeeze the trigger and apply paint to a car. But it takes a master to achieve that glossy finish you see on the magazine covers. While CMM arm scanners are not quite that difficult, there is a level of mastery to this kind of 3d scanning service that takes a while to develop. And with this type of scanner you never really stop learning; the improvement occurs over months, not days or hours. IQ: 3

Now, people 3d scanning service booths may be one type of scanner that may well be idiot-proof. It requires some setup, but assuming our airheaded friend comes in after the setup is complete, the idea is that anybody can walk into the booth, sit down and the scanner will capture whoever is there. It benefits from a consistent setup from scan to scan, with constant lighting, distance, size etc. So a people 3d scanning service booth could well qualify as an idiot-proof 3D scanner. IQ: 8

So the conclusion is that most scanners are not as easy to use as the marketing videos will have you believe. You are likely not going to be able to rent a scanner for a day and accomplish the same amount of scanning as a 3d scanning service provider unless you are a real superstar. But with enough training and practice, w can transform the idiot into a tech savvy master of the art of 3D scanning.

Keep reading: more articles about 3D scanning

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