ZYLtech's Digital Photogrammetry Guide to Excellent Scans Without a 3D Scanner

ZYLtech's Digital Photogrammetry Guide to Excellent Scans Without a 3D Scanner

Posted by Chris Hajdik on Mar 7th 2019

“ZYLtech’s Digital Photogrammetry Guide to Excellent Scans without a 3D Scanner”

Do you ever get tired of printing items from Thingiverse? 3D modeling a bit too time-consuming? What if you were able to take any object you have around the house, office or anywhere really, and get it into your favorite modeling software within just a short amount of time. Sound too good to be true? Well, it is too good but definitely TRUE! Here are my steps and experiences with the technology of Digital Photogrammetry. With this technique, we can create 3D models from objects BIG or small.

What is Photogrammetry? Photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. You are able to take dozens if not hundreds of digital photos and with the magic of Photogrammetry software, you can recreate an object into an editable, 3D printable model.

Entry level scanners offer mixed results with the environment needing to be perfect. If the environment is not ideal you can have a hard time even getting mediocre scans. In my experience I have used both handheld and tabletop scanners. Both of which can work only if the geometry is very simple along with perfect lighting which can be a hard thing to accomplish.

What you will need:

  1. Photogrammetry software on a speedy computer is preferable. Intel i7 is what I am using with 24GB of RAM. A few links to photogrammetry software are here: 3DF Zephyr, Meshroom, Agisoft Metashape. There are more than this of course. In this guide I use 3DF Zephyr Lite. It is licensed at $150 but it allows you to use up to 500 pictures and I was able to get great results far exceeding any of my scanners. Meshroom is free and open source. It performed well but I noticed some over-lapping of the images incorrectly. It may work for you so give it a shot if you want to do some experimentation.
  2. A camera. Either a Digital SLR, or a cell phone camera. In this guide I used a Canon 7D Digital SLR. It was easiest for me to transfer photos off of the CF card instead of transferring the photos off of my phone. Be sure to set your F stop to 6.3 to 10. This will make the background blurry while keeping your subject in focus.
  3. A Platform or Tripod that has 360° access all the way around with about a 5 to 10-foot radius. I was able to get my photos using a tripod and balanced a piece of wood on top of it. Not entirely stable but it definitely worked in a pinch.
  4. IF you plan on photographing indoors, it is important that you have evenly diffuse lighting. NO SHADOWS for best results!
  5. Something that you would love to “scan”!

I did purchase 3DFZephyr Lite which was $161.23 with tax. Now this is much cheaper than the handheld ($399) and tabletop ($499) scanners that I have. If you pair this with your phone camera instead of investing in a digital SLR then you are really saving some money!

Setting up YOUR “scanning” area may be a bit different than the direction I went. I wanted to see what kind of results I could get with the Free Version of 3DFZephyr before purchasing, so my setup was outside on a cloudy day with a tripod and some wood balanced on top of it. It really isn’t the most ideal but it worked! Since then, I pretty much do the same but I just make sure that I am in the shade when doing any photography. Once I had my subject and tripod situated how I needed it, I took several pictures looking directly at it. I wanted to make sure that I got an eye to eye look at the model. I then took baby steps (1-2 feet) around the subject and taking 5 – 10 pictures within each step. It is important for your photos to overlap each view. For a typical model I was generating about 100 -200 pictures depending on the detail of the model. The model in this guide I took 165 pictures. After my head on round of pictures I then took another set of pictures slightly elevated higher so that I could get a view that showed top of the model and could be incorporated into the software compilation.

I have seen people use a processor controlled turn table with an automated camera shutter release but I wasn’t able to get the results I wanted. It seems that the software is looking for the background to change in order for it to tag the model positions to get the correct calculations.

After discovering how easy this process is, I probably scan 3 to 4 things weekly now. The tabletop and handheld scanners in the price range I mentioned, really seem to be more novelty than a functional tool. I personally don’t have a few thousand dollars laying around or the necessity to justify this sort of purchase. A part of me still would love to “try” it out but that’s the key word there. TRY IT OUT doesn’t really work when approaching companies to get a demo of their hardware! Oh well! This works very well for my needs!

So that’s it! Get your photos imported into the Photogrammetry software of your choice and let the fun begin!

I hope this guide helps you get going in the direction you want and Happy Scanning!

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