How to Copy (almost) Any Object

How to Copy (almost) Any Object


Hello and welcome back to Switch and Lever! I’m sure I am not alone in having some precious
objects around me which I wish I had more of. If only there was a way to copy physical objects
in a similar way to sticking it into a copy machine and hitting print. Surprisingly, it may not be terribly much
more complicated than that. In this video we will go through the steps
involved with scanning a physical object all the way through holding the copy of it in
our hands. So come on, let’s get going! Comparing copying something flat, like a photo,
through a regular copy machine and copying a physical object is fairly similar. You first have to scan the object you wish
to copy, and secondly you need to print it out. First step is scanning. Various technologies to do 3D scanning have
been around for quite some time, but unfortunately most technologies for highly accurate 3d scanning
are very expensive, and require highly specialized tools. I have used a couple of these methods in the
past when scanning my own head, something which I used to CNC mill my own coin in a
previous video on this channel, as well as done other fun stuff with. Fortunately for us there have been great advances
made in methods which require no specialized equipment beyond a decent camera. In this video I will focus on copying two
objects, one small, a ring, and one larger, a mannequin head, each with their own challenges. The first, and coincidentally free method,
as long as you have a camera, is photogrammetry. Photogrammetry is the technology of constructing
3D geometry from photographs. We’ll use software to analyze photos of our
object to be copied, and the software will measure and match photos with each other until
it hopefully understands how the 3D geometry of our object fits together. I say hopefully, because it is dependant on
having good photos of your object, from every conceivable angle. You really want to make sure you’re capturing
every little nook and cranny, especially so if your object is intricate. A rule of thumb is to try to photograph every
point of the object from at least three different angles, to give the software a good chance
of triangulating different points on your object and successfully constructing 3D geometry. Photogrammetry works great on slightly bigger
objects, like this mannequin head, but can be used on a much larger scale as well. When you’re taking your photos there are some
important things to consider though. Some tips while taking photos of your object
Work in good even lighting Shoot with small aperture (for crisper photos)
Make sure your photos are in focus Avoid reflective objects (as reflections will
vary depending on your angle) Avoid shadowing your object (as that can cause
issues with matching photos together) Once we have our photos, what do we actually
do with them? I mentioned software just a short while ago,
and there are a few really good photogrammetry packages out there. The most popular one is probably Agisoft PhotoScan,
and if you’re curious about it they do offer a 30 day trial, but after that will charge
quite an exorbitant amount of money for continued use. Autodesk also offers a software called Recap
which also has a free trial, and uses cloud based analysis, but after the trial comes
with a monthly subscription cost. I started the process of scanning with Autodesk
ReCap, but soon moved over to a more recent addition to the photogrammetry scene called
3DF Zephyr. Luckily enough they offer a completely free
version of their software, and it is truly amazing! The free version does have some limitations,
like the amount of photos per project is limited to 50, but for most simpler objects that’s
going to be more than enough. If you’re interested in diving deeper into
different photogrammetry software look at the Wikipedia article linked in the description,
as the selection of software is vast. The mannequin head that I scanned took quite
a few tries to get right, for many reasons. It’s actually easier for the software to scan
something that’s not completely smooth, something with more defining features, than what this
head was. The more detail or texture there is the more
unique points the software will find. The plastic of the head was also a bit too
reflective to get a good result. I tried different ways of rectifying that,
such as painting the head with a matte primer and adding sticky dots to give more defining
features. Even though the results were better it still
had a lot of issues. I tried rotating the head on a lazy suzan
instead of moving the camera, and tried to mask the background completely away. Even though my results left something to be
desired, masking is a method which is proven to work. Check out Niels Provos’ recent video on copying
an antique axe head where he successfully uses this method. The full video is linked in the description. Another method to use is to set up an array
of cameras around the object, and trigger them all at once. This is especially useful with objects which
won’t stand perfectly still, but on the downside requires a lot of cameras. This is being used right now in 3D photobooths,
to which you can go, get scanned and have a miniature copy of yourself made. Continuing with the head, I even ended up
drawing small dots all over, and when that failed tried connecting them with lines, to
create enough points for matching. Even though quality mostly continued to improve
they still were spectacular failures. In some ways the failures are more interesting
than the final result, and you could definitely use these failed scans for artistic purposes
if you were so inclined. What did end up working was spattering the
whole head with both white and black spray paint, to give a random painted texture over
the head. The results also started getting a lot better
once I switched over to using 3DF Zephyr. It’s not immediately visible right here, but
up close the detail is quite a lot higher with 3DF Zephyr compared to Autodesk ReCap. The mesh is more than ten times more dense. The results after this process was simply
better than I expected going into this! 3DF Zephyr has a fairly easy learning curve. You drop your photos into the software, and
let it match the photos to each other and calculate what is called a sparse point cloud,
which is basically matched points between the photos. From this sparse point cloud it will further
calculate a dense point cloud, and finally from this point cloud will create a 3D mesh
with your geometry, even with textures if you so desire. Prepare to let your computer do quite a lot
of heavy lifting, so go and make a coffee and read a good book while it’s computing
all the 3D data. I’m not going into all the little details
of how to use the program, but a healthy dose of experimenting ought to set you on the right
path. If everything went well your geometry should
be pretty close to your object. It’s quite likely that the result has some
issues though, like holes in the geometry, or things being completely distorted, sometimes
with hilarious results. For some things, like smaller holes, 3DF Zephyr
has tools to fix, for others there’s no choice but going back and taking better photos or
spending a lot of time in a 3D modeling software. In fact, when you’re starting out you’re probably
going to find yourself going back and redoing the photography several times until you get
a result you’re happy with and start developing a method you know works for you and with your
equipment. This is of course not the only thing you can
scan using this method, any object that’s roughly the size of a fist and bigger ought
to work great, provided you can get around the object and take photos from multiple angles. This method has been used extensively to capture
architectural features, like this entryway to where I used to work. Or this stone step, with every little detail
caught. You don’t even need an amazing camera to capture
decent results, like this rock nearby where I used to live, which was put together from
just ten photos taken with an iPhone, in just a few seconds. Or this face which came from a facade in Stockholm’s
old city was also captured with an iPhone camera. If you have access to a remote controlled
helicopter you could even do video shoots of your house from different angles and use
the same software to piece it together into a model of your house. This house model came from a website called
Sketchfab which has a lot of 3d photogrammetry models available for download from their users. I highly recommend to check it out, just follow
the link in the description of this video. Once you start seeing the world with 3D scanning
eyes you start to realize that the sky is the limit, and almost anything can be 3D scanned,
whether it should be 3D scanned or not. And with that, I bring you, bread! Why would you scan bread? Why wouldn’t you scan bread? The whole reason I actually started this project
was because I wanted to copy a very special object, a plastic ring I’ve had since I was
a kid. I think I got this (and a few like it) from
a chewing gum machine well over 25 years ago. I loved this ring, but it’s made of plastic
and my fingers just aren’t the size they were when I was a kid. To make a long story short, I wanted to copy
this, so I once again could wear my childhood ring. I tried, repeatedly, to use photogrammetry
to get this ring scanned. The reflective surface obviously wouldn’t
work, but neither did painting it with a gray primer, and neither did giving it a little
structure. It was time to turn to another method. Another very popular method of scanning is
structured light scanning, where you usually pass a laser line over an object and use a
camera to interpret how that line bends over the object. There are more budget variants to use this,
even some homebrew hacks where you can build your own scanner. At my previous place of employment I was lucky
enough to find an old NextEngine 3D scanner hidden away in a dusty corner and managed
to get it up and running again. This has a few years on it, and newer ones
produce a bit better results, mainly due to better cameras, but this was sufficient for
what I needed. It constructs a point cloud, similarly to
what 3DF Zephyr does from photos. The strength is that you can easily scan once,
reposition the item being scanned and scan again, to get all angles of your item. Then you can merge all of these in the software. Bear in mind that this method still has the
same limitations as before when it comes to reflective surfaces, so priming or dusting
the object with talcum powder may be a good idea. NextEngine’s 3D scanner is just one such scanner
on the market, and it does cost a pretty penny. However, if you need really high quality meshes
using structured light scanning technology may be the only way to go. There’s a good comparison of different methods
on the NextEngine website, which shows what you can expect from each method. Unfortunately though they don’t really compare
it to better photogrammetry methods, like Agisoft Photoscan, or 3DF Zephyr. Also, the open source community is working
on exciting things in this field, like the FreeLSS platform, which is essentially an
open source, 3D printed, laser line scanner, based on Raspberry Pi. All the material you need is open source,
so if you want to experiment with it yourself, do check it out! You can actually do proper laser 3D scanning
as well, using LIDAR sensors and essentially measuring the time for the laser to bounce
from the emitter and back to your sensor. It’s generally not something that’s commonly
used for the kind of scanning that we’re doing in this video, but is common when measuring
elevation and creating topographical maps. If you want to experiment at least with the
source material from such scans a lot of the earth is available for download in various
Digital Elevation Map formats. With them you can create 3D topographic maps,
to use for visualization or similar things which we will do later in this video. Back to the ring, and as you can see the result
of the scan was still not perfect, but compared what I got from doing photogrammetry it was
like night and day. The result from the scanner may seem quite
rough, but aside from the holes where the scanner couldn’t reach, it is a pretty accurate
representation of the original ring, as the plastic itself isn’t all that high definition
and has plenty of small bumps and mold lines. So, there is still plenty of work to be done. which is mostly true regardless of 3d scanning
method. The more care you take in the scanning the
less issues you have to fix afterwards. Either way there may be noise in the scan,
disjointed parts, holes or other geometries which need to be fixed. As you can see the skull ring still has some
major issues, but most is there. Using a software package like Zbrush or Sculptris,
which allows you to sculpt 3D geometry rather than use traditional 3d modeling tools you
can fix these geometries and smooth the surfaces. I cleaned up the ring, smoothed some areas
and increased the definition in others, until the ring looked the way I wanted to. Sure, it was not an exact representation of
the plastic ring I wore as a child, but it definitely shares provenance. Right now, regardless of which method you
used, still all we have is some 3D geometry in the computer, but I think you can easily
figure out how to get it back into the physical world. That’s right, through the wonders of 3D printing! First of all let’s tackle the head. Once I had cleaned it up after the scanning
I simply pushed it out in ABS plastic on a Flashforge Dreamer 3D printer, and indeed
it came out pretty nice. Just copying something may be fun, but you
could also do more interesting things with it. I did some modeling and reprinted the head,
making a snazzy USB flash drive from it. Stupidly I didn’t take into account how thin
my computer is, but eh such is life. If you don’t have access to a 3D printer yourself
there are services, such as Shapeways, which happily will print your models for you in
a variety of materials. I’ve used Shapeways plenty of times in the
past, so it’s no surprise I’m a fan, but I have no affiliation with them and my endorsement
is entirely from my own experience. In a previous video, making a branding iron,
I demoed how you can 3d print steel with Shapeways, but since we’re making a ring something a
bit more sparkly is definitely more aprorpriate. This time around we’re printing in silver. Well, that’s kind of a misuse of the term. Shapeways will actually print it in wax, and
then use the wax to cast a silver piece for you. The process may not be the cheapest, but it’s
an entirely custom part, and for that it’s not terribly expensive. Try going to a jeweler and getting a custom
piece like this made and see what it will cost. Quite frankly, I couldn’t be happier. The ring fits and feels amazing, and while
it arrived to my doorstep highly polished and reflective given a couple of months of
use it’s tarnished beautifully, and got an amazing depth to it. I know wearing a skull ring may be seen as
tacky by some, but hey, live and let live huh? Of course, you can choose to print things
out in other metals, or plastics, even colored or transparent plastic if that catches your
fancy more. Remember the scanned bread from before? Yep, you could even have a piece of 3d printed
bread, though I wouldn’t recommend eating it, even though it is gluten free. I will actually be giving away this 3d print
to one lucky instagram follower, so be sure to head on over to the Switch & Lever instagram
account for more information and rules for the giveaway. Come on, you know you want this absolutely
unique piece of Switch & Lever memorabilia! That’s really all there is to it, if you have
a camera you can start experimenting with photogrammetry today already. Download 3DF Zephyr, photograph your favourite
thing, sleeping person, an unsuspecting pet, your house, or whatever else floats your boat,
and print and scatter copies of the weirdest things imaginable all around. Thank you so much for watching, I really hope
you enjoyed this much longer than usual video, and maybe also learned a thing or two. Even so, there are plenty of other videos
on this channel, why don’t you give one or thirty eight of them a look? Remember to head on over to instagram and
enter the raffle for the 3d printed bread. You could be the lucky winner! Until next time!

100 thoughts on “How to Copy (almost) Any Object

  1. I'm a retired jeweller / master model maker. Truth is I would have been happy to cast that plastic ring using lost wax casting. Its a process rooted through thousands of years of our history, would be a fraction of the time, effort and cost.
    Doing it for myself would cost nickles and dimes in material and a few bucks worth of (real} scrap sterling silver. It would be a molded copy with an elongated band to keep it cheap. The cost would only start to add up if the model had to be "scaled up" as he does here with software. Even so, I can hand sculpt a replica of that simple skull in pretty short order and cast it up with little effort.
    So, as a craftsman with my full shop at my fingertips and 30 years of experience at play, I could go to my printer and spend (did he say how long this took? Seemed long) a while figuring this out or, sculpt up and cast real sterling.
    Now, what it cost me and what I'm gonna charge a customer are obviously two different things but if I walked into my shop tomorrow and was going to remake this ring; would I walk to my bench or to my 3d printer?
    I would walk to my bench without a further thought.
    I can see the fun of doing this with photos and printing and it does give me some intriguing ideas (that's what this stuff is all about, right?) but whether I made a rubber mould and cast an injected wax copy or re created a scaled up wax by hand, the lost wax process gives me a ring made of sterling silver and its less trouble for me to accomplish better, longer lasting, more beautiful results.
    Maybe the day will come when it's practical to print 1750°f molten silver (I hope to live to see the day we do that!) but for now, we have to settle for the same basic fire and clay process the ancients employed thousands of years ago.

  2. Please make a tutorial on fixing meshes, you’re the only YouTuber I found who has been so helpful and clear. And you kept it interesting! You didn’t lose my attention once

  3. Much hustle,
    But still tempting,
    I must get this software and learn how to master it!

  4. I aonder what would be the outcome usiing Autodes 123D Catch… i used it a while back and the effect was really good (on a simmilar but less reflective model).

  5. My objects are a chrome shiny color with moderate little black…can i paint it all black in order to get a good result. any suggestions.

  6. Qlone is a ios app that scans. I have just tested it once, and the result was… interresting. However, its a hint of things to come. How about testing the Qlone app?

  7. Subscribed. Unbelievably well-made video. Plus the info on how to get a scan of a head with 3DF Zephyr and painting specs on the model is really helpful and really important. Now I think I could do that finally. Imagine how many hours you have saved people times the number of people trying to do this and failing many times just like you did, but never documenting it like you did. Subscribed all the way. For life.

  8. I found used 3D Kinect cameras for $6 to $14 recently. They give amazing results using RTABMap+Meshlab or Processing+OpenKinect. Skanect is probably the easiest software to use, but doesn't offer a free option. For 3D printing I use Cura and model raw objects in Lightwave & Blender. I love this stuff. Processing allows integration w/audio, MIDI, keyboard, mouse, joystick, etc. inputs to manipulate 3D pixel values in real-time. It's amazing.

  9. A funfact: The upside down house at 18:02 is placed in Szymbark (Poland), next to the place where the world longest board from one tree has been cut out 🙂

  10. I liked your video very much. The details of the struggles to perfect 3D printing/reproductions has been a trial and error only a few understand. There were times when you would think it's not even possible but every little advance no matter how insignificant promised a perfect end result somewhere in it's future. From idea to tangible reality. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  11. The Makerbot Digitizer is TERRIBLE, utterly useless unless you are scanning a box, or a pyramid, anything else comes out un-usable.

  12. Wow this was super! I might have missed it, but how do I get a stl file to use with a 3d printer after Zephyr has done its thing? cheers!

  13. Meshroom is the new big dog. No configuration at all, just drop the images and you're good. The scans are far superior than any other programs too!

  14. Oh my…! I'd never have thought of 3D printing my precious items!! Holy crap, what a fantastic idea, I'm going to do it just like you did your ring for some of my (cheap but I love them) jewelry, what a great video! I love this. Really would never have thought of this, this is brilliant. And your video's quality is amazing, the explanations, demonstrations, errors encountered and WHY… Simply fantastic. Excellent job, will be referring to this video again! Thanks for your efforts and for sharing!!!

  15. I want to try this to make some radio control car parts which are bent, I need to get made from CNC titanium but I need to add measurements can this be done?

  16. Fantastic tutorial! I am a neophyte with zero 3D experience and a huge interest in learning about it. Until I found this video I was totally ignorant of how to create files. None of the videos about or instructions for 3D printers discuss files other than mentioning different softwares available. This step-by-step guide was a giant step for me towards understanding the process. I particularly appreciate the advice about spray painting the model in contrasting colors. I can't wait to try this!

  17. From all of us who have had their dreams dented by the hard reality of 3D scanning, thank you for taking out some of the sting. Here's one more like and sub

  18. I have a HTC Vive VR headset. It has 2 sensor stations which use IR lasers in a vertical and horizontal line (I guess like structured light scanning?) and it also has a camera on the headset. Could I accurately scan something using this?

  19. I'll save you 18 mins or so…

    1. Take pictures of every angle of object

    2. Use some software to turn it into a 3d model

    3.3d print it

    Ez pz

  20. do any 3d printing services allow you to mail an object in to get professionally scanned and then printed?

  21. Is there any reason you couldn't mount the object on the end of a post so you can get more and better shots from below?

  22. How to copy (almost) any object.

    Step 1: Buy a 3D scanner.
    Step 2: Buy a 3D printer.
    Step 3: Spend the rest of your life in Debtors' prison.

  23. hello, I have a question: should the photos shoot horizontally or can they also shoot vertically?

    Ps: excuse my bad English, it's not my native language, I'm using google translator……. Grazie (Thank's)

  24. A way better software than those is "meshroom", it's completely free, doesn't have any limitation and tells you where you need more pictures. My first test was the exact SAME piece, it also gives coloured texture.

  25. Just curious of what it costs to have shapeways print the ring in silver?

    We are working on restoring a few vintage 1920’s Speedometers for cars and the old ones had originally been made of several pot metal parts, this would be a good way to have the parts replicated in aluminum?!!

  26. You should have a white or contrasting background in each picture you take. This should be as obvious as depth of field and lighting.
    You can achieve this very simply by using a piece of foam board that you rotate around the object as you walk around taking each picture.
    For what it's worth, it will provide faster and much more accurate results than what is happening here.

  27. Very good! Highly informative and entertaining. It always amazes me to see people give excellent videos likes yours a thumbs down. 215 cranky people. 😉

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