Experiencing Technical Difficulties (resonant) wrote,
Experiencing Technical Difficulties

3D Scanning Seminar

Thursday, I left work before 6 PM and went to the Ontario Science Centre for a seminar on 3D scanning. Within a few years, most smartphones will have 3D scanning capabilities built into them. It will be very useful to advertisers (plus phone users will like the feature, too).



A simple LED emitter (like a TV remote) beside the phone camera lens will project a pattern of invisible infrared dots in front of the phone. Based on the appearance of the dots on the objects in front of it, the phone can calculate the exact distance from the lens of every pixel in the picture. The phone's processor will then create a 3D schematic of the image. Users can then send this schematic to a 3D printer to make a plastic statue of their friends. Or of specific parts of their friends. Advertisers will be able to use the 3D schematic to more readily determine if a person in a picture is holding a can of Coke or Pepsi.

The first presentation was given by MMM. Sometimes you have a complex industrial site such as an oil refinery or electrical power substation. Over the years, people have made thousands of changes, moving wires and adding pipes. People didn't always update the site plan when they made the changes; sometimes they updated the site plan, but indicated the changes they wanted to be made, not the changes that were actually made by the people installing the pipes and wires. To help with future maintenance and construction, you need to know what is present, and its exact positions. The old-fashioned way is to send people out to measure everything by hand. This takes a very long time, and means people might have to crawl into dangerous areas with high voltage or fire hazards. With modern 3D scanning, you don't even have to go into the industrial site. You stick a laser scanner on a tripod outside the site, and it bounces a laser beam off everything it sees. You move the tripod to other locations, until the laser has seen the site from all angles. You can then generate a 3D schematic of the entire facility with less than an hour's work, with no need to send people into dangerous areas.

The next presentation was given by a forensics expert. When there is an accident or crime scene, he comes in with a 3D scanner. Instead of laser light, he maps using visual light. He waves a camera around, and in minutes, he has a 3D schematic of the crime scene, showing the exact position of every piece of evidence. He can then plot out the paths taken by bullets and blood splatter, and show whether or not witnesses and suspects could have actually seen or done things as claimed. He says it is very compelling to juries to see a CGI movie re-creating an incident, as they can see for themselves that a suspect wasn't tall enough for a bullet to have hit a victim without passing through a seat, or that trees or hills kept a driver from seeing an oncoming truck.

The final presentation was by a medical technician. He showed how he can quickly do a 3D scan of a patient and send a file to a 3D printer to make a prosthetic in minutes, so the patient doesn't have to wait for weeks. He also showed how his hospital developed a home sleep apnea test mask. Instead of an expensive sleep study in a hospital, with lots of wires and sensors, you are given a simple, lightweight mask full of sensors to put on your face while you sleep at home. Thanks to 3D scanning and 3D printing, this diagnostic device will soon be on the market.

Afterwards, I met with a supplier who was giving a demo of a camera system. If you put anything in front of it, it generates a 3D schematic in seconds. If you put another object in front of it, it generates another 3D schematic, compares the two, and generates a deviation map. A computer screen displays a picture of the object, with all differences highlighted in red. This would be great for inspecting product at work. Instead of having people carefully inspect everything, the scanner could point out just a few areas for them to look at. This would save effort, and prevent defective product from reaching our customer.

After I got home, I wrote a letter describing this system, and sent it to my team. A lot of people responded that they thought it was a great idea. They all agreed that I should be the one to investigate it further. So, more work for me!
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