Institute for
Robotics and Process Control

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Low-cost 3d Laser Scanner and fast Surface Registration*

* Main Price of the The German Association for Pattern Recognition 2006

Project Description

Low-Cost 3D Laser Range Scanner for Everyone

Today, almost everyone owns a flat bed scanner for documents. But how is it possible to scan the shape of a three-dimensional object? Commercial systems that can be used to digitize objects are very expensive and not affordable for most people.
However, this has changed now: Computer scientists Dr. Simon Winkelbach and Sven Molkenstruck, research associates of the Institute for Robotics and Process Control of the Technical University of Braunschweig, and director of the institute Prof. Friedrich M. Wahl, have developed an especially simple and low-priced technique for laser range scanning. For the research paper about this extraordinary method, they received the renowned Main Price of the German Association for Pattern Recognition on September 14, 2006, in Berlin. A pdf version of this publication can be downloaded here(PDF).
In the meantime, the idea has been developed into a easy-to-use software application called DAVID(External), which everyone may download for free.

3D-Scanner Setup [Source:]

Beside the software DAVID, only a simple camera (e.g. a webcam) and a line laser are necessary. Both are available in electronics shops, starting at only 15-20 Euro. The object to be scanned must then be placed in the corner of a room or in front of two planes standing in a right angle, and the camera must be pointed towards it, as can be seen in the image above.
The special thing is that you do not require any complex mechanics for the laser; you simply move the laser line over the object by hand. At the same time, DAVID generates 3D data in real time and shows them on the computer screen. Like this, you can sweep the laser line - like a virtual brush - over the object, until you are satisfied with the result. The resulting 3d mesh can be exported into the well-known Alias-Wavefront file format (.obj) and can thus be imported and processed in most 3d applications.

Today, DAVID is also able to "stitch together" several scans made from different viewing directions. Thus you can easily create a 360°-all-around-model of your object!

More information about DAVID and of course the free download can be found on the internet site Furthermore, there is a detailed user manual, an example video and a user forum, such that you can get a good first impression about the system before building your own hardware setup.

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