How 3D Digitization Works

Scan. The first step to starting any digitization work is to scan an object. The Center for Digital Scholarship supports two hand held 3D structured white light scanners- the Creaform Go!Scan 50 and the Creaform Go!Scan 20. The Go!Scan 50 will capture medium to large sized objects. The Go!Scan 20 is best at capturing small objects, anything small enough to fit inside a breadbox. A scanning session begins by placing special postioning targets all over the object. These non-adhesive dots act as an advanced game of "connect the dots" creating key points for the scanner to connect to when building the object.

With the tracking dots in place, scanning begins. The scanners emmit 1,000 photographs per second, and compiles the photos to create and build out a 3D object. A 3D technician holds the scanner and move the scanner up and down and all around the object. While scanning, the technician monitors the capture on a laptop. The Go!Scan scanners capture the geometry as well as the color/texture of the object. The beauty of this scanning process is that it doesn't require special conditions or an condusive environment to scan. The center has created mobile scanning units to take on off-site projects. This flexibility allows for fewer restrictions such as an object being too fragile to move or an object can't be removed from the building.

3D Scanning Large Japanese Kimono3D Scanning Small Artifact

Process. After objects have been scanned, a technician will perform quality control measures to vaildate that a complete model has been captured. As great as 3D scanners are, they aren't perfect at capturing every object seamlessly. Sometimes scans will have have holes in the geometry, or slight texture imperfections both of which will need to be cleaned up. A variety of software are used to fix both of these issues. VX Model is used to repair holes in the geometry, and  Autodesk Mudbox is used to clean up any texture imperfections.  Depending on how the complexity the object this process can take several hours to correct and clean.

Processing 3D scan geometryRepairing texture data

Publish. The last step in the process is to publish the 3D Object. There can be many outcomes for a clean 3D scanned object. What is the intended us? What is the end goal? Such outcomes many include: historical preservation, 3D printing, educational, VR content, etc. Once an end goal of the object is determined.  For example if it is for historical preservation and research an object will be uploaded the highest possible resolution  to a 3D viewer such as Sketchfab. If it is for educational, or going to be embeded in a website  a lower resolution object  will be created so that it is more accessible when loading up on a mobile device, or lower end computer. Whatever the end goal, the Center will work to ensure that the assets meet the needs and standards to whichever platform they're being used in. 

Photo of student in Virtual Reality of a 3D Scanned Environment Photo of 3D Printing of a scan being printed

Updated Oct 24, 2018 by gmaixner