HOW HARD IS IT TO 3D SCAN A LIGHTBULB? Part 2

Can you 3D print a Lightblub?

In my last post I discussed the difficulties of scanning a light bulb.  Its transparent, and this causes quite a few problems with 3D scanning technology.

 

But we managed sort of, so now I’m going to discuss the process of turning the digital scan into a 3D printed object.

The chances are you already know all about 3D printing and the potential it offers museums in numerous ways.  If not. Liz Neely and Miriam Langer’s Museum and the Web 2013 paper Please Feel the Museum: The Emergence of 3D Printing and Scanning is a good place to start, as is the Collections Trust post are we ready for 3D printing?

The 3D scanning of a historical light bulb from the UCL Science and Engineering collection raised a number of challenges that museum face when wanting to scan their objects, but we held an rather ‘suck it and see’ attitude and wanted to test out the possibilities.  A quick and dirty action research approach as a means to understand the technological potential.

A point of note, there are really three steps to 3D printing; scanning, modelling and printing.  Due to our novice status in the 3D printing world (and the time we had available), we pretty much skipped the modelling phase.  Hindsight suggests we should haven’t done that.  The scans we produced were not faultless, but scans can be cleaned up using free tools (see my earlier post about my 3D printed head – where MeshMixer was used to fix gaps in the models).  A nice free tool is MeshMixer which has built-in tools to help identify gaps in the scanned mesh and can auto-fix these.  MeshMixer is by AutoDesk and is free to download.  http://www.meshmixer.com/download.html

The Printer:

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We used a MakerBot: Replicator 2 to print our light bulbs.  UCL CASA kindly let us experiment with their Replicator 2.  If you look carefully you should be able to see my 3D printed head in the photo.

This uses heated plastic as a raw printing material and recreates objects from the scanned mesh files using a moving nozzle which melts the plastic and repeatedly plots layers molten plastic on top of each other to form a matrix.

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3D printing is a fairly temperamental process. Because the plastic reaches incredibly high temperatures and the printer has to run for a long time it can be a dangerous to leave it unattended.  So you can spend a long time watching the printing process.  Which is fun to start off with, but it soon gets really really dull.  This light bulb took about 3 hours to print.

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The final product:

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Over all we were quite impressed with the final product. It isn’t a bad representation.  I still don’t think we can call it a replica but it definitely looks like a lightbulb.

Once we had our printed objects, we did a couple of workshops in the Grant Museum and Sidmouth Museum, and talked to lots of people about 3D printing and whether creating new objects in this way can encourage a closer inspection and deeper understanding of historical museum objects.  Overall, all the visitors we spoke to were really interested in the process of 3D printing, many had heard of it, but had not seen or more importantly held a 3D printed object in real life.  But does 3D printing create a level of deeper engagement with the original museum object?  It certainly provoked visitors to look closely at the original and the 3D printed object, but I’m not sure if a deeper understanding of the historical objects was reached.  But there is definite potential there, which we want to explore in the future.

Despite the relative rough and ready approach, we really learnt a lot, and the process provoked a lot of questions about how museums are responding to 3D printing.

Creating a mini me: Playing with 3D printing

 
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As part of the Digital Frontiers exhibition I have been experimenting a bit with 3D printing.  This is why working in a university is brilliant as there is so many clever people and bits of kit about who will let you have a bit of a play.

3D tech is becoming quite big in museum discussions right now, and many museums are looking to embed 3D features permanently into their museum services but there are a few challenges to do this. Check out Andrew Lewis’ from the V&A’s post about How ready is 3D for delivering museum services? And my post from bits to blogs about Crapjects.

Because 3D is emerging and is turning out to be a playfully disruptive technology I felt it was important to experiment with just what could be done relatively quickly with 3D tech for an exhibition.

A couple of months ago I had myself scanned quickly by Jan Boehm and John Hindmarch from UCL Engineering,  Virtual Environments, Imaging & Visualisation which was then printed out with Andy Hudson Smith’s (CASA) 3D printer and it produced this prototype:

3D Me!Last night Steve Gray and I had another play, this time creating an object model mesh with a Kinect.  We used a Kinect  and  the software ReconstructMe.

Microsoft’s Kinect is an awesome piece of tech.  Instead of game play you can use its Infrared sensors to do depth of field scanning!  We were trying to work out a re-usable workflow, so we could then scan everybody! We started with a desk drawer and moving the kinect around but that didn’t really cut it.  Eventually with a bit of tinkering we has success with an office swivel chair is to allow the object (aka me) to revolve slowly in front of the Kinect!

The scans produced are not faultless, but they are really very good for such simple and cheap kit.  We (I say we, but actually Steve) cleaned up the scan using free tools. Here is a scan of myself showing the problem areas. This is in MeshMixer:

3D me in MeshMixer

3D me in MeshMixer

The final result was using a mix of MeshMixer and MeshLabs and NetFabb Basic to fix gaps in the models.

3D Steve and Claire

And if you so wish, you can download and print either Steve or me, or both of us out! We added ourselves to thingyverse.  Now everyone can have a mini Claire!  since last night there’s already been 12 downloads of us! weird!