We created the Robocular 3D scanner for people who, like us, were not satisfied with the existing solutions available for 3D scanning. Today, you can either buy a high-quality, but very expensive machine for several thousands of dollars, or you can buy a low-cost scanner but with low-mid accuracy components. Many high-resolution scanners don't even support color, let alone texture. In 2012, we decided to build a device that just worked, and had the precision of the very high end scanners, at the cost of a few hundred dollars and would be so simple it could be used by everyone. After ten different prototypes, we are now ready to share this scanner with you.
Our product is a high quality 3D Scanner that just works. You open it, put an object in it then hit scan, and it will automatically create a 3D model of that object for you on your computer. It's that simple. The model will be of high-resolution and in full color and texture. Here is a picture:
Here is a one minute video to give you an idea of the scanning quality you can expect from the Robocular (sculpture used with permission by DMA (C) - please see bottom for credits):
How does it work?
In a nutshell, it shines a high accuracy line laser onto an object from various angles and various directions, turns the object around and reconstructs the 3D model based on what it sees on its HD camera. This is the principle behind most 3D scanners - we take it several steps further though.
The object is placed on a high-precision turntable which rotates at about 4,000 steps per revolution. That means it has a comparable amount of information to taking 4,000 pictures of the object from various angles. On average this also means a single model will have about 2-3 million points for every pass. The whole thing is in an enclosure so that external light doesn't interfere and so that you don't have lasers swinging around your room. The laser is a green, low-divergence laser which can capture raw details at up to 150 microns (that's sub-millimeter accuracy - see models below) - after mesh reconstruction that error will usually go down significantly and the scan will be even more accurate than most 3D printers can output. The scan volumes range from 7" diameter x 7" height (mini version) to 9" diameter x 9" height (standard version).
In the standard version, the laser and camera can move up and down and the laser can be swept left to right. This means the device can take scans of the objects from multiple angles/locations and recombine to create a more confident version, improving error even further. In the mini version, there are two fixed lasers.
Once the geometry is acquired, a white light allows for crystal clear color acquisition, generating a fully colored and textured 3D model. All the technical specs and models are below so read on!
The Robocular 3D Scanner in action
We played around with the scanner to make you a video that showcases its main components and what it is capable of doing. Please turn on the sound as the music is synced to the scanner.
This was recorded with a standard camcorder set to high exposure. The laser line width will appear bigger than it is. In standard operation the servo is stationary and only moves at the end of each phase.
What can I do with it?
Here are just a few of the many applications of 3D scanning:
1- 3D scans can simply be modified and re-printed using a 3D printer. This means you can make a physical copy of any object in your house that you scan. Example:
2- 3D scans are a great way to store a digital copy of physical objects you care about - for example, a rare sculpture or a work of art that you have. You can scan them and save the digital files to disk, then use them at any later time if you need to recover your objects. Collectors, archaelogists, arts & crafts people, art fans and engineers all can find creative uses for quality 3D scanning. You can of course import those files into your favorite 3D editing software.
3- 3D scans allow you to bring objects from the real world into the virtual world. If you are a gamer or game developer for example, you can use 3D scanning to quickly acquire objects at a high resolution and use them within games that support them. The Robocular software can export to OBJ, PLY, STL, XYZ with full textures and color, and those formats are supported by many games. We will consider other format requests as well. Check the "software" section below for more information.
4- 3D visuals can be used by online retailers and sellers. When presenting an object for sale on the internet, buyers will be able see its 3D scan from all angles and get a real feel for what it is they are buying.
5- If an object of yours is damaged, you can 3D scan it, complement it to find the missing piece, then get that 3D printed so you can plug it.
6- Engineers/Architects/Designers - you can scan objects and import the design into your favorite CAD software as solid objects. This allows you to save a significant amount of design time. Here is an example.
7-You can use the software to make a mold of the scanned object with just a single click. If the mold is re-printed using a food-safe material, you can even use it in the kitchen. That allows you to make chocolate versions of any object you can find.
A big step forward in low-cost 3D scanning quality
Quality: we use servo-mounted green line lasers, high accuracy cameras, very high accuracy turntables and very flexible software. Our raw accuracy is within 0.15mm (1/200"). More details in the technical specs section.
Cost: Most high quality scanners cost upwards of 1,000$ with many of them over ten times that. Our most advanced option is 799$ (699$ if early bird) with the mini option available for 599$ (499$ if early bird), including shipping to North America. Other scanners below 1,000$ will typically have fixed red lasers, low-resolution turntables (less than 1,000 steps per turn) and overall lower quality components.
Speed: we allow you to pick the scan speed - your scan can take from one minute up to 15 minutes depending on how accurate a scan you want.
Color & texture: our models are full color and fully textured and the samples are already available so you can judge the current quality for yourself. We have plans to use even better components and significantly redesign the algorithms over the next few months which will result in even better models.
Controlled environment: our scanner is closed-box. This means two things: first, that the scan quality/colors won't be affected by the outside light - we shine a pure white light onto it and capture colors. Second, you won't have laser beams swinging around your room.
What does the output look like?
Unlike several 3D scanners we've seen in the past few years, we are also posting RAW point cloud captures (this means the model "as is" before any smoothing/surface reconstruction). Those captures are basically what the hardware sees so they will be noisier - this can give you an idea of the hardware quality. After that, software is used to smooth things out and remove noise. Look for parts below that say "RAW".
We've included both good samples and difficult samples on Sketchfab. Unfortunately we could only post a tiny fraction of the models we have since most of them are copyrighted (we have scans for cameras, phones, handlights etc.)
We have plenty more so feel free to PM us if you want something specific scanned (we can't publish anything that's copyrighted though). We will also happily accept requests to scan your items and publish them here or show them to you until December (at our discretion).
The Robocular 3D Scanner combines high quality components with high quality software to create 3D models that are very close representations of the real object.
Our scanners all use 5mW green line lasers for increased resolution and accuracy. Why is green better than red? CMOS color webcams have twice as many green pixel receptors as red, allowing us to capture a much higher number of clear points.
The scanner contains one HD camera to measure the laser.
We use high gear steppers and a positional feedback system to get angular resolution that is 0.1 degrees or better. This allows us to know the position of the turntable to an accuracy of 0.1 degrees or better (we are planning on making that even better). Right now we consistently measure 13 bits of angular precision. Also, if the object is heavy and the turntable motor skips we know about it.
We use in-house novel software and algorithms to capture geometry, color and texture and combine the three to get the best looking model. We've modified and created new algorithms that can do this quickly and consistently.
Our standard scanner contains a servo guided laser that increases the number of angles that can be seen (image below)
Our standard scanner uses a movable assembly to be able to capture multiple scans of the same thing
An enclosure surrounds the scanner so that colors and lighting can be properly selected, while keeping the lasers contained within the box. By keeping it in an enclosure, you don't have to worry about external lighting - usually when it's dark outside the laser will look great but the colors won't be visible, and when it's light the laser will barely appear but the colors will. Our scanner controls its environment by using its own white LED system. Having an enclosure also adds an extra layer of protection to eye safety by keeping it isolated.
We use our in-house designed software to control the scanner, calibrate it and generate the point clouds and meshes. We generate full color, full texture 3D models - we can create point clouds or just water-tight meshes. We support PLY, XYZ, OBJ, STL (3D printing ready) and we will be broadening that list.
We've included several novel features in the software to allow you to reduce noise, combine scans from multiple angles seamlessly, or even create molds and complements for the scanned objects. This is on top of all the standard features such as closing holes, simplifying meshes, scaling, translating, cutting and other transforms. Here is a snapshot of our current development version (the software will be one-click by default with an option to view advanced functionality):
Many of the algorithms used are based on algorithms developed in the past two years to which we made several improvements and optimizations.
Standard vs Mini - in English:
The mini is designed for people who just want to get started with 3D scanners - it can do your basic scanning but won't handle complex objects or objects with holes very well. So the model quality is not as good as the standard. The standard has movable parts that allow it to look beyond occlusions and holes and capture far more accurate models of complex objects.
Robust ABS/Sheet metal enclosure and turntable:
We've designed the parts to be robust. Our preliminary tests show that objects of up to at least 45lbs can be supported. The positional feedback means that even if the motor skips steps because of the weight shifting, we will still get an accurate scan. We will try to increase or at least maintain that number unless we can gain more accuracy by not doing so.
How does it compare with a typical competitor?
We will not compare to a specific competitor in public but we can answer that in private. We've taken a list of all the "one-piece" desktop 3D Scanner competitors we know of that are below 2,000$ to give you a comparison to typical ones. This is NOT directed at any specific competitor but rather at the average/typical market at that price. This should also give you enough data to make your own comparisons to specific ones.
Production plan and Timeline:
What we've done so far:
We've been working on this project for over a year (since late 2012).
This is the 10th functional prototype that we've produced. Here is a picture of all the other prototypes and what we changed and why.
Here are some pictures of the electronics we have inside and their evolution. We still plan to move the microprocessor onto the chip instead of using an external one and we have several other improvements in mind to make this circuit much more efficient:
The scanner we are offering on kickstarter is the tenth iteration (and certainly not the last). Here are a few of the older iterations:
Production Plan/ Where the pledges go
We've contacted manufacturers and gotten quotes both for the enclosure and for the internal components.
In particular, we have several quotes for the lasers, the cameras, the PCBs, the motors, the mechanical parts, the plastic parts, and everything in between.
The real parts which required manufacturing are the plastic parts (enclosure/turntable/camera housing) and PCBs. The rest just involve buying and assembling.
In low/mid quantities (200-500 units) we will be getting injection molds for some of the interior components and 3D printing/building some of the others ourselves. As the numbers get higher it makes more sense to build some of the other components using injection molding.
For the PCBs we will have them professionally fabricated and will either assemble them ourselves or have them done professionally, again based on how many units get ordered.
The enclosure will be done by experts in sheet metal and/or ABS - based on units sold.
We will most likely do the final assembly ourselves unless the quantities sold are big, in which case that will be contracted out to someone local and we'll do the QC.
Some of the money will go to contractors to get our electrical/mechanical designs reviewed and improved. Another part will go towards renting a warehouse/location to work on the units. Part of the funds will go towards getting certification tests done (FCC/CE). If large quantities are sold, some of the money will go towards hiring some help, while another part will go towards getting some software to make development faster.
Many of the components will likely be made here in the USA and the final assembly will be done here as well.
The overall design is subject to change based on how many units are sold and the kind of feedback we get. However, we will keep the technical specs at least as good as what's mentioned above unless there's a very good explanation for doing otherwise. The main thing that might change are the enclosure shape and the exact components used.
January 2014 - Kickstarter campaign ends
February 2014 - Complete revised design based on how many units are sold. Get warehouse space if needed. Handle rewards for 25$ and below pledges.
March 2014 - Order PCBs, components, enclosures, injection molds. Order any machines required as per the previous milestone (e.g. new 3D printer, CNC, etc.)
April 2014 - prototypes/components arrive - send out first prototypes
May 2014 - apply for certification on a completed unit/resolve any issues
June 2014 - parts/components begin arriving. Start assembly and testing/debugging.
August 2014 - Early birds begin shipping
September 2014 - Other scanners begin shipping
The production plan will change based on the number of units sold and may end up taking more (or less) time.
Who we are
Robocular LLC is a Kenmore, WA based start-up that deals with computer vision and robotics.
As of this writing there is one full time owner, Antoine El Daher. He's a computer engineer and computer scientist with 7 years work experience in software/computer vision/AI and with experience in hardware manufacturing, and PCB design. There's more information on the company page.
We employ contractors and consultants from various fields as needed, including mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, industrial designers. We will beef up this model as appropriate if the project is funded.
250,000$ - all Scanner Minis will now have a servo-guided laser instead of two lasers. The Scanner Standard will have its servo upgraded to a high-resolution AX-12A servo
500,000$ - scanner minis will have their servos upgraded to AX-12A. Scanner Standard will receive a super high-resolution green line laser (LC520-5-5F) or equivalent.
We are including shipping to the US and Canada as part of the price. Because of the size of the scanner that cost can be quite significant. Unfortunately we cannot do that for other international locations where we added an average shipping rate (the standard scanner is about 18"x12"x12" unboxed right now so its boxed size will be at least several inches more on each side).
We also would like to ask our international backers to handle any customs costs, duties, tariffs, additional local/regional taxes and laws themselves. For instance, it is possible that some countries have restrictions about whether to allow importing items that contain 5mW line lasers (note that 5mW line lasers are usually not as dangerous as 5mW point lasers unless you put them right next to your eye) - we will include the necessary warnings and the enclosure is designed to keep any lasers inside. But it will be on you to do the homework before you order and by ordering, we assume that you have already checked - we may be able to swap out the lasers with 1mw red ones if you so request but the scan quality will be affected. We will apply for FCC and CE certifications.
Finally, if for some reason shipping to your location is much more expensive than average, we will let you know and offer you a chance for a refund or to pay the difference.
As with many hardware projects there are risks involved. Our prototypes are currently functional and we have manufacturers/suppliers lined up for all of the pieces. We've also built several versions of the product so far and can now reliably build a couple of scanners a day manually when all parts are present.
However, there is a large number of different pieces in the product and hence several dependencies. HD cameras, lasers, motors, servos, electronics, plastics, enclosures, gears/rods/bearings means that any manufacturer/supplier being late can introduce delays. We believe to have mitigated this by making sure most of our first choice suppliers/manufacturers are based in the US, and by having backup component suppliers for each of them. We also most likely will be doing the final assembly and testing ourselves.
We still plan on perfecting the product both externally (enclosure) and internally either by improving the quality of the image or by making the whole assembly even more robust and efficient, mostly based on backers' feedback. That said, the models shown above were taken with the current assembly so this is the "worst case" of quality you can get.
Based on how much the demand is, we may have to hire one or more people to help with the assembly, and we may have to switch to other manufacturing methods (e.g. alternating between injection molding/vacuum blowing/resin casting/3D printing/sheet metal and just custom manual welding) but the overall shape will remain very close. We may also have to rent a warehouse to be able to build everything.
Shipping to Canada is FREE. You do not need to pledge the additional 79$/99$ for that - if KS won't allow you then just choose shipping to US. You can provide a Canadian address once we send out the surveys.
RAW models represent what the hardware sees exactly, without any smoothing or interpolation, from a single vantage point. The RAW models are later transformed and combined into meshes which have been smoothed out. Usually raw models tend to be noisy but they are the best representation of the underlying quality of the hardware/lasers/cameras.
In the field of 3D scanning, some kinds of objects are typically more difficult to scan than others.
Objects that are reflective or glossy will tend to be of lower quality since the laser light being shined gets reflected and picked up elsewhere, creating noise. Same with transparent or translucent objects. We are working on software to reduce this by capturing from multiple angles so we expect this to be somewhat mitigated.
The mini version has fixed lasers which exposes it to some occlusion risk (meaning if the object is complicated it is harder to capture all the details and holes won't be clearly visible). The standard one mitigates this substantially by having a mobile laser.
3D sensors, such as the one used by gaming consoles or those that get attached to mobile devices are based on a different method of acquisition. Most of them will have low-resolution cameras (640x480) and use low-mid resolution structured light projectors (also 640x480). This allows the capture of the general shape of objects that are pretty big in size but very little detail. A 3D Scanner is to a 3D sensor what a high-res color scanner is to a non-HD webcam - we capture very small details with high accuracy up to a size of 9". There has been an upsurge in 3D sensors recently and we invite you to compare the generate model sample qualities and specifications.
We believe we are currently the only 3D scanner company which offers the highest quality product at a cost of a few hundred dollars. In particular, our turntable has 5x the steps/accuracy of most current competitors, our HD camera has 2x the accuracy, we use high accuracy green lasers (which are much better than red ones since CMOS color cameras have twice as many green color receptors, and also thinner to capture more details), we have a mobile laser and a mobile camera to capture millions of angles. Also, we provide an enclosure to make sure the lighting inside the box is appropriate for scanning and make sure none of the lasers shine outside it either.
For the mini, it will be at least 649$ + sales taxes + shipping for several months after Kickstarter ends. Right now you can get it for 499$ as an early bird or 599$, and all of these include any sales taxes to the US, and shipping to US/Canada.
For the standard it will be 799$ + sales tax + shipping. You can get it now at 699$ which includes sales tax and US shipping, and there are buckets at 729$, 749$, etc. even the 799$ option now includes any sales tax and shipping which will end likely end up hitting around 150$.
You will likely not get the level of detail you are looking for in small jewelry items or other tiny items. This is because the camera is about 7" away from the center. Similarly, if an item is highly occluded, only the parts which can be seen from the camera's perspective will be scanned.
Examples of things which will not look good:
- Small earring with lots of detail - you'll only get the outer shape
- Long hollow cylinder with details inside it, if placed with the hole facing up - you'll just get the outer cylinder. If you place it facing down you will get some of the internal details.
Unfortunately no - it is not designed for medical or dental purposes and we'll not be applying for FDA approval for this product.
It has not been tested on teeth and we cannot guarantee the accuracy on them. If you look at some of the samples of Sketchfab you'll notice that some models get inaccuracies and noise in them, which is typically unacceptable in the medical field, so please plan accordingly.
I guess this isn't a FAQ but it's better to clarify this:
1- This is a 3D scanner and it only scans the parts that are visible to it. It doesn't do x-ray/MRI or figure out what's inside a closed box. So if you put a handlight in there you'll get the overall outside shape of the handlight, not any of the electronics inside.
2- It doesn't print models back out in 3D. You'll need a 3D printer for that. The gist of it is: a 3D scanner takes a real item and transforms it into a virtual item on your computer. A 3D printer takes a virtual item from your computer and transforms it into a real item.
EARLY BIRD MINI 3D SCANNER - for our early supporters. You will receive one fully assembled and calibrated Robocular 3D Desktop Mini Scanner (fixed lasers/assembly, 7" radius x7" height scanning volume). For details about the difference between the Mini and the standard please check the description and tables on the left. Calibration object included. Includes US and Canada shipping. International backers please add 80$ to the total.
MINI 3D SCANNER - you will receive one Robocular 3D Desktop Mini Scanner (fixed lasers/assembly, 7" radius x7" height scanning volume). For details about the difference between the Mini and the standard please check the description and tables on the left. Calibration object included. Includes US and Canada shipping. International backers please add 80$ to the total.
LIMITED HOLIDAY OFFER - STANDARD 3D SCANNER. You will receive one Robocular 3D Desktop Standard Scanner (moveable laser/assembly, 9" radius x 9" height scanning volume). For details about the difference between the Mini and the standard please check the description and tables on the left. Calibration object included. Includes US and Canada shipping. International backers please add 99$ to the total.
EARLY BIRD - STANDARD 3D SCANNER. For our early supporters, you will receive one Robocular 3D Desktop Standard Scanner (moveable laser/assembly, 9" radius x 9" height scanning volume). For details about the difference between the Mini and the standard please check the description and tables on the left. Calibration object included. Includes US and Canada shipping. International backers please add 110$ to the total.
EARLY BIRD BATCH #2 - STANDARD 3D SCANNER. For our early supporters, you will receive one Robocular 3D Desktop Standard Scanner (moveable laser/assembly, 9" radius x 9" height scanning volume). For details about the difference between the Mini and the standard please check the description and tables on the left. Calibration object included. Includes US and Canada shipping. International backers please add 99$ to the total.
STANDARD 3D SCANNER. You will receive one Robocular 3D Desktop Standard Scanner (moveable laser/assembly, 9" radius x 9" height scanning volume). This is our flagship version with all the bells and whistles. For details about the difference between the Mini and the standard please check the description and tables on the left. Calibration object included. Includes US and Canada shipping. International backers please add 110$ to the total.
CUSTOM PROTOTYPE - You will receive a hand made full-size prototype, signed, using your pick of color for the outside, your name in the "Top Contributors" section of our website and the product will arrive a few months before the others ship. Free shipping worldwide.