With the advent of 3D developing, prototyping, and printing, the need for a reliable and affordable way of reverse engineering, recording, preserving objects digitally continues to grow. However, 3D scanning technology has been quite stagnant in recent years, with machines continuing to be cumbersome, expensive and difficult to operate. This is where Cloud Point comes in. It is easy to operate, and offers a low cost and low effort solution for everyday scanning.

What it does

An object is placed on a base which rotates at specific degrees. While the object is being rotated, it is scanned by an ultrasonic ping sensor, which moves up the z-axis at set iterations. The angle of the base servo and sensor pulley servo is measured, controlled and reverse-engineered by an Arduino to create specific points on a three-dimensional axis. This cloud of points can then be used by a variety of software to achieve feature estimation and surface reconstruction.

How I built it

This hack was created by using basic hardware components and a variety of everyday materials. Ultimately this utilitarian design greatly lowers the cost of the rig to about 10 dollars. The Arduino code controlls the physical mechanism, and it is sent through Python Serial to MatPlotLib.

Challenges I ran into

We had many problems with setting up the rig, as we had to design a mechanism which allows a positional rotation servo motor to lift an object a great distance. As well, we had to implement many mathematical calculations to translate the angle of a servo's head (angle A of a triangle) to the vertical translation of the proximity sensor.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

This being our first analytics-intensive hardware hack, we are really proud of doing this with limited resources no prior knowledge in data processing.

What's next for Cloud Point

This easily scalable hack can be used by the visually disabled to identify everyday objects, as well as by the average hobbyist to reverse-engineer a part into a CAD design. In addition, it's affordability can help replicate medical parts in areas of the world which could not have afforded a conventional scanner.

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