A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
Let's say you wanted to take a picture of a coin, like this:
And you wanted to be able to zoom in at least this much:
From the "G" resolution and its area, you can calculate that the final image would be 400 megapixels. So you grab your $48,000, 400 megapixel camera, your ultra-wide-field, extended-depth-of-field macro lens, and your other imaginary things, and call it a day. Right?
Right. But what would you do if you couldn't do that, like me? What are your options?
How would you do... this?
If you've read the title or watched the video, you know the main secret: You don't try to take the whole picture at once. You use a bunch of motors to move your camera or object, take lots of pictures, and then stitch the best parts together!
This sounds like a great trick for extending your field of view, and making use of low-resolution cameras, but what does it have to do with 3D photography? Everything!
Instead of just doing 2D scanning once, you do it a bunch of times. You still spin your object on a (super tiny) turntable, just like a normal picture-based (photogrammetry) scanner, but when you pause to take a picture, you don't take just one. You take as many as you need to cover your whole object at the resolution that you want.
Repeat if desired --- 40 times, in this case.
Youshould know that scanning something like this isn't always the best option --- it takes time, and can introduce subtle distortions in the image, which might not be blindly suited for extremely sensitive applications. And this is not like a magic and expensive laser-based 3D scanner --- LadyBug can be used for photogrammetry 3D models, but it's not at the point where all you have to do is click a button. That said, it is absolutely possible to produce them, if you're willing to put in some work!
There are a lot of ways you can actually implement a scanner like this in practice, and the available rewards reflect that. I started this project during my Master's degree in biomedical engineering more than two years ago now, and had budget and size as absolute priorities. I ended up basing the entire system around two old Playstation-3 Blu-Ray drives and the cheapest USB microscope I could find:
My intended application was for in-incubator, timelapse scans of living animal cells. Then, I got distracted by a tiny little linear stepper motor from inside the Blu-Ray player, which is normally used to move a single lens back and forth. Could you use that to move a stage, like for a coverslip?
And then if you're already doing that, what's the reason you can't clip in an even tinier little rotary stepper motor and lift that up instead?
And so, several years and thousands of 3D printed parts later, the design was polished and put to work as a 3D scanning microscope for small things, made almost entirely out of Blu-Ray players.
(I'm spinning a tiny 3D-printed Kim-Jong Un head, I hope he doesn't mind).
And don't think it's just for 3D scanning; you can absolutely set it up to 2D scanning, as long as it fits on the platform!
In more recent times, I've switched over to trying to optimize scanning for serious users. My new system is based on a CNC or 3D printer, which I call LadyBug Beefy. You can read about it over on my Hackaday blog, but just consider it the Blu-Ray version's bigger, sturdier twin, and with a better camera! It even has a fifth axis, allowing you to really "fly" around the thing you're inspecting:
LadyBug Beefy is the odd one out in the rewards, because the bulk of it is modified from an existing commercial product. As such, it can look really different depending on how it's made, and what you want it to do:
It's even possible to do active machine vision, for instance if you want to follow things around:
My plan is to base the final system on a core "XYZ" gantry printer --- where only the camera moves in the linear dimensions, making it much easier to mount your object when doing 2D scanning. If you are seriously interested in this, please reach out to me directly, and I will give you some one-on-one support.
Finally, the last available main reward tier is the most experimental, but with a design that I hope will appeal to a special set of users. Lots of people have good cameras and optics, and I wanted to make an entry-level device to help them do 2D and 3D micro-scanning. I basically took the four motors from the Classic DIY and put them all on one block, turning it into an independent stage --- just point your camera at the moving object and program it to move in sync with your shutter!
Again, this is somewhat experimental, and I still plan to upgrade key parts to be more useful for conventional photographers. But if you see the value as a tool for your existing camera, absolutely you should go for it! And expect me to reach out to learn some of the details of your camera setup.
Future Plans and Fulfillment
Despite my best efforts to graduate, I'm still a part-time student. I had originally planned to launch at the beginning of April, not June, which would have given me a solid summer to travel, source difficult parts from their origin, and work with manufacturers to build as much as possible before returning in the Fall to finish assembly and start shipping out. Then, in case you didn't notice, the world stopped working, and plans had to change.
Not all of it is a bad thing. Thanks to the PPE shortage, I got a lot of experience farming out parts:
Basically, I'm preparing to first manufacture the Classic and DIY kits, which are close to their final production forms, in-house --- literally at my house, with my own printers and soldering iron and two hands. Fulfillment of the Beefy and Platform versions, which require more specialized parts and some remaining development, will commence afterwards. This plan is good up to one or two multiples of the funding goal, but in the case of a runaway success we may have to reevaluate.
You've reached the end of the story, congratulations! Whether you want to share the campaign or pledge for a Beefy or the $1 digital rewards or nothing at all, that's okay. You don't have to buy anything at all to make one of these, and I don't expect everyone to want one anyway. But I hope that it inspired you in some way, or you giggled at parts of the video. Those were my intention, and if you follow along on the project you'll get way more where that came from.
Thanks for looking, and have a great day!
Risks and challenges
I think probably all first-time launchers share a similar sentiment: I am absolutely terrified of both success and failure. If I fail, it's my fault. If I succeed, it's my *responsibility*. I want to succeed, of course. But I also really, really don't want to let my backers down.
Here are the things that I can promise directly from me and no one else:
1: I will work my absolute hardest to listen to my backers,
2: I will be transparent as I can, in times of both success and hardship,
3: And I will deliver. If not on time, then at all, as long as I am still breathing.
These clams should be at least the minimum, so let's talk specifics at where we expect to see challenges:
First, there are consequences of the pandemic. I've already talked a bit about this in the story, but basically I am preparing to manufacture in-house, to be flexible with the choice in some components, and have adjusted the delivery dates. I don't know what the future will hold, though --- nobody does. See promises one through three above.
Next, there's getting the whole user experience up to snuff for the public. LadyBug started as a concept, then a laboratory prototype, and has gradually become more polished. But it's still not the easiest thing to use. I don't want to delay a great system from getting into people's hands while I try to make it perfect, so expect there to be a round of software updates after the first feedback comes in. With that, if you'd like to be a beta tester, feel free to apply!
Lastly --- you know what? Let's just say I'm leaving this one reserved for a later date. I don't know what it is, but I'm sure something will come up. See promises one through three!
In general, I prefer 3D printing to injection molding, meaning there's much less waste when parts need changing or replacing. The flexible choice of camera and open-source nature of the software means that anyone can edit it to fit their evolving needs.
While we can't guarantee that the initial construction of the project components were low-impact, we're doing our best to use technology that was mass-produced but fell by the wayside --- this especially applies to our use of (an obsolete model of) Blu-Ray drive, which have been sitting unused in warehouses for years. Furthermore, a large part of the prior-to-Kickstarter development was done by repurposing broken and discarded ("curbshopped") electronics. The digital rewards teach you how to do this yourself!
Environmentally friendly factories
Except in a case of runaway success, I will do the vast majority of the final assembly at my house, probably at my living-room table, and manufacture parts using the various 3D printers that are scattered about. The worker (me) will be fed using food grown organically on-site on the front lawn tire farm that is visible from outer space.
If you've got a 3D printer, like to collect trash, and have some experience with electronics, what do you need us for? Make a LadyBug on your own!
There are two main routes to do so --- Classic style with Blu-Ray/DVD players or Beefy style, by modifying a 3D printer. We'll provide software, original 3D model files, digital guides, and other schematics that you'd receive if you pledged at one of the higher levels.
Thanks for your support, and we hope to hear from you after the campaign ends!
You've got to have a T-Shirt pledge, right? I think of it as for people like my professor, who complained about having too much money. In any case, and for any reason, show your support and look hard-bodied at the same time!
Turn your phone into a macro camera, play music through a microscope objective lens, fire lasers, run a tiny linear stepper motor, and more!
This kit "breaks out" some of the components of the famous Playstation 3 Blu-Ray drive, two of which form the backbone of the "Classic" DIY LadyBug --- you will receive the optical pickup unit, or heart, of one such drive, as well as 3D printed connector pieces, mini PCB boards, and a guide to some of the projects you and your kids can do! Arduino/Raspberry Pi optional but not included.
For more information on the many laboratory-grade optical and electromechanical components of the kit, check out the guide from my friend Sam: http://repairfaq.cis.upenn.edu/Misc/Blu-ray/site1/optics.html
You will receive everything you need to do 2D scanning, basic focus stacking, and 4-axis 3D macrophotography of tiny objects! Standard USB microscope included!
In the event of a large number of orders, you'll get something like a "mini" Beefy scanner, but based on a smallish 3D printer. Otherwise, the plan is for this to be styled like the DIY version I made in the first Instructables (link below), since the components have already been sourced and the design proven.
The main difference is, then, I'll be doing the printing, finishing, soldering, screwing, and all of that other fun stuff for you. Possibly a little bit of assembly required, if necessary for shipping.
Please note that this is not like a magic laser 3D scanner, but is a device primarily for taking pictures! Please see the description, FAQ, or Instructables for more info:
LadyBug Classic Complete 4-Axis Macro Scanning System
Just like LadyBug Classic, Platform can use its included USB microscope to do 2D and 3D scans. But instead of moving the microscope, Platform moves just the object --- this means you can just place the whole Platform on a table, or under your dissecting microscope, and use the good camera and optics you already own!
In other words, for a few hundred bucks, you get a 4-axis motorized positioning platform that can extend your field of view, rotate an object for 3D photogrammetry, or perform basic focus stacking. Perfect for the bug (and other small things) macrophotographer!
Please be advised --- complete automated scanning functionality at this time requires your camera to be recognizable by a windows computer as a webcam. Platform can always be used as a standalone manipulation device, and there may be other ways to trigger your camera in tandem with it, but just be aware. These things are more experimental, and if you're okay with that, we'll try our best to make it work for you!
T-Shirt or MiniKit
LadyBug Platform Standalone Macro Table and Motorized Microscope
LadyBug Beefy is the latest evolution of the original Blu-Ray based scanning motorized microscope. Based on a sturdy CNC machine, use the up to five motors to fly around your object for visual inspection, or set the improved polarizing digital microscope to scan even shiny surfaces over gigapixel-scale areas at around micron-level resolution.
Fit as a fixture in a laboratory, industry, or educational environment, LadyBug Beefy is a tool like you've never seen for the price for inspecting and taking incredible photos of electronics, insects, stones and fossils, coins, fabrics, forensic items, and more.
Final product scanning dimensions not settled, but at least 100x100x100 mm range in X,Y, and Z, 2 degree steps per rotation/tilt control, and at least 100 gram object mass with full 3D manipulation.
Customization for specific use cases available upon request.
One each of the main tiers --- a complete LadyBug Classic, Platform, and Beefy, with a couple of DIY kits thrown in for good measure. And a sincere thanks for your ultimate show of confidence and support. You know who you are.
Classic and DIY kits expected to ship first, separately, in advance of the Platform and Beefy. Free shipping to USA.
LadyBug Beefy 5-axis Macro Scanner
LadyBug Platform Standalone Macro Table and Motorized Microscope
DIY Classic LadyBug scanning microscope kit
LadyBug Classic Complete 4-Axis Macro Scanning System