Ghost in the machine

Although my makerbot still sits in its box in the basement, I am still spending some time thinking about how I will use it once I eventually get it built.  I've got most of it figure out, but still have some questions about input.

There are three ways that something can end up being made by a 3D printer:

  1. it can be designed in a 3D software tool from scratch.  I have Solid Edge and Blender for these sorts of jobs.
  2. it can be downloaded from a 3D community like Thingverse or GrabCAD and then either printed directly or modify it using one of the software tools I mentioned in the point above.
  3. it can be "digitized" from a real object that I have in front of me or even in a series of pictures.

It's this last one that has me spinning a bit.  What I want to be able to do is capture a 3D image of a human in motion.  A 3D action shot if you will.  These are the ways I have read about digitzation being done

  • A group of "performance artists" in Barcelona (you'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever been to Las Ramblas) pulled of an exhibit called "Be your own souvenir" in which they hacked together 3 kinects to scan tourists.  The tourist cum souvenir would strike a pose, would get scanned and then they would print out a 3D model of them.  This is the closest to what I want to do (and the cheapest – kinects are less than $100 each and I already have one) but documentation is lacking and I am not sure if it could capture a high shutter speed freeze frame of a person in motion…soemthing tells me the answer is no though.
  • Autodesk has a tool called 123D Catch that magically converts a series of 2D images into a 3D point cloud.  Now there would obviously need to be some cleanup of the cloud before it was printed, but this also holds some promise.  The trick would be to arrange multiple high speed cameras around the person in question…then synchronize them so somehow they all were generally focused on the same thing and took a picture at exactly the same moment.  That sounds pricey (multiple high speed cameras) and hard (synchronization).  If desktop software is too 20th century for you, then there is a cloud based company that claims to do the same thing – they might even offer some cleanup services so it may be a better deal overall.
  • In the DIY realm from whence my printer came, there is a scanner prototype of sorts, but it seems scaled down for taking scans of small toys or other small parts that you would print out 1:1 on a Makerbot.  I need something to scan a person then print it out at 5 or 10% life size (so it will fit on my makerbot in one pass).  There are some really nice commercial solutions in this vein as well.  But they don't even have prices on their website (if you have to ask, you can't afford it).

So nothing fits the bill perfectly.  Looks like I have some more digging or possibly inventing to do.





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