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DAVID 3D Scanner Starter Kit Review


david-starter-kitA few weeks ago I reviewed the DAVID 3D scanner for Shapeways. I tested it on the Suzanne statue that I won a couple of years back and was quite happy with the results (model download included ;-)

Of course, I had to return the unit so I was wondering: is anyone aware of a free (as in speech) setup to achieve similar results?

About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.


  1. Have you seen the milkscanner yet? Do a search... But no... there's lots of very expensive commercial options, like the polhemus fastscan cobra, and the handyscan... and the cheaper nextengine thing.

    David was the free option a few years ago when the dudes that wrote the software were still students, but sadly that's definitely past-tense now.

  2. I have had a few tries at 100% DIY 3d laser scanning, and it is quite easy to hack together a functional (though low quality) 3D laser scanner with a webcam and a laser pointer.

    My setup was a simple rotating turntable/sweeping line scanner as my image analysis techniques (macros in ImageJ) were quite limiting; with more experience in image analysis it would be very simple to setup a DIY DAVID-style scanner. IIRC the paper on the scanning technique used in DAVID is available on their site.

    As for the final stitching-multiple-scans stage of scanning MeshLab can do that very well, and for free.

  3. I am actually working on a DIY laser scanning system right now, see, its a fun little project, the DAVID method is annoying with bumpy results, and I tried the sweeping profile method on a turntable, that misses most of the details. Now I am doing an algorithm similar to $3k scanner, and am currently in the process of finalizing the software. I'll keep you updated on my results if you would like.

    The final setup should be under $50, and I will make the specifics open source when finished.

  4. In fact, it is easy to do that yourself, the resolution depends on two factors, the laser quality and the camera quality. You can do some software correction and mesh construction afterward. The mesh construction is probably the most difficult part, and there a lot of research going on to find the best approach. Anyway, if you are a geek all you need is a laser pointer, a webcam, OpenCV and time to program. Good luck!

  5. @LoopyShane: thanks for the link, but they're still at 0.1 alpha - I don't think it's ready to be used yet?

    @dan Boyle: ah, can you stitch scan data with MeshLab as well? That's pretty cool, I'll have to check that out, thanks!

    @DeMoN: interesting, please do keep us informed! Will your solution require the turntable setup? That might be a bit hard to get/make for most of us..

    @KinzeroN: eh, yeah. Making Blender is easy, too! You just need some time to program ;-) Way out of my league, I'm afraid.

    @DMRadford: only the low-resolution version of the software without the stitching part is free, unfortunately.

  6. @Bart: If you use OpenCV, you can callibrate the camera (i.e. find the x,y,z and the direction of the camera), and that"s why they use the pattern as background (that's the hard part but there are a lot of information on the net and even opensource libs if you are curious: and ). This principle is also used with the wiimote, to find its position (The wiimote is actually an infrared camera). The next step is estimating the laser plane intersection with the object, again, simple edge detection filter with some color/contrast filter can do the trick. Again from that, you'll get a cloud of points or line strips that you can stitch together. Anyway, this information is in case you want to learn the process behind it, not that complex, and any student can do it, if he is curious enough. Again, everything can be done with python, so yes, it's easy, far more easy than coding blender =)

  7. @Bart: The turntable you see in the pictures on my site was the second version laser scanner, since I started this project there have been 3 versions, the first was a fully automated and over-engineered box that ended up being too complicated to operate/synchronize even for me. The second method was the brightly colored turntable pedestal in the pictures which was intended to be trackable so that there would not be any need to calibrate the camera position, but on the software side it got annoyingly complex.

    My current working version is almost ridiculously simple (and I feel stupid for not thinking of it first), a simple foamboard stage, like the one you used with the DAVID scanning system but simpler, and a fixed pivot to turn the laser horizontally (can also be made of foamboard), and a digital camera (not webcam). I have also been toying with a $10 black&Decker laser level that makes a line with a prism instead of a spinning mirror, and so far so good, it seems it will be really cheap and easy to use by all. However good results are currently based on alot of situation specific hacks, so until I make a stable piece of user friendly software to accompany the scanner, im keeping it in the closet, to avoid user support taking up development time.

  8. I downloaded an older David Laserscanner app (from when it was still a free app) and used Open Source Meshlab to align/merge the models. But you always need a good laser, mine want that perfect.

    Ill check out the other solutions that are mentioned here at a later time.

  9. Forgive me if anyone has already mentioned this. I hadn't had time to read through all the responses. But I believe I read somewhere that there is a talk during Siggraph 2009 that will show you how to build your own.

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