How to 3D Print Using a 3D Scanner
Did you know that the first 3D printer was invented by Charles W. Hull in 1987? Since then, 3D printers have slowly increased in popularity. Today, 3D printers are more popular than ever.
Besides the printer itself, a 3D scanner is also an important invention, and it goes hand-in-hand with 3D printers. Without such a scanner, it would be nearly impossible to recreate exact 3D replica prints from real objects. But when it comes to learning how to 3D print using a 3D scanner, you might be wondering where you should start.
Fortunately, it isn't as hard as you might think as long as you have the right tools on hand. Keep reading and learn more about the details below.
Prepare the Object for Scanning
You might be tempted to go out and scan an object without any kind of preparation, but this is certainly not what you want to do if you actually want your 3D print object to come out right. Long before you make the transition from 3D scan to print, you will need to find the object you want to scan and get it ready ahead of time. Keep in mind that there are also certain materials that don't scan very well.
For example, if you are trying to scan a reflective object, you're going to have a hard time. This is because reflective objects can get in the way of the scanning and printing process because of how they reflect light. You can try to scan such an object, but you'll find that it won't work out.
Does this mean that it is impossible to scan a reflective object? Not at all! However, you will need to spray the reflective object with a matte spray or coating.
That way, the reflectivity of the object will not get in the way of the 3D scanner. This is also the case for transparent objects.
Scanning Transparent Objects
If you try to scan a transparent object without any preparation, you'll find that this task also won't go over well.
This is because the 3D scanner will see right through the object, and it won't be able to give a good rendition of the actual form of the object. Again, to fix this problem, simply spray the object with a matte spray or another substance that will apply a certain texture to the object. Then, when you try to scan the object, it will work as it is supposed to.
Keep in mind that this kind of matte powder or spray is only temporary. So, you don't have to worry about ruining the object with the spray. It should be quite easy to clean off once you're done with it.
You might find that using a matte spray on objects that aren't reflective or transparent can also be helpful. Such a spray will make it much easier for 3D scanners to detect all the little nooks and crannies your object may or may not have.
Scan the Object With Your 3D Scanner
Once you finally prepare your object, it will be time to scan it. For the best results, you will want to invest in a high-quality 3D scanner. This is especially true if you plan on scanning objects that have many deep nooks and crannies.
Some cheaper or low-quality 3D scanners won't be able to accomplish this job very well. If you have a low-quality 3D scanner and try to scan an object that has a lot of details, you'll find that the result of the scan will be quite mediocre. More often than not, such a scanner won't have the ability to pick up on small nuances in the object's structure, and it may not give the object the right depth or form.
This can be frustrating to work with, which is why it's worth spending a bit more money on a high-quality 3D scanner. A high-quality scanner will be able to visualize objects in a much more efficient way. Even if you're scanning an object like a fan or a vent, a good scanner should be able to visualize all the little nuances of the object and capture the object perfectly.
The accuracy of the result, of course, is very important if you need to scan objects for a particular job or project. When scanning an object, you will also want to ensure that nothing else gets in the way. To accomplish this, you will need to create a spacious, empty area to scan your desired object.
A good way to do this is to clear off a large table.
Preparing a Space for Scanning
That way, you will have space to place your scanner and the object that needs to be scanned, and no other foreign objects will be in the way. This is important because if there is clutter around the object you are going to scan, these other objects might get in the way of the scanning process.
This could easily end up costing you a lot of time and energy. You can avoid this problem by having a space prepared that is dedicated to 3D scanning and printing. Keep in mind that nothing in this space should be reflective or transparent.
For example, if the table you put the 3D scanner on is at all reflective, you will want to cover it up with a tablecloth or another object. Otherwise, the reflectivity could easily end up interfering with the scanning process even if the object you are scanning isn't reflective.
Also, keep in mind that, depending on the object you're scanning, you may need to scan the object from several different angles. This is especially true for objects that have pockets of depth, such as vents or grates. By taking several scans from different angles, your scanner will have a much better view of the object, and it can better put together a visualization of much better quality.
Refining and 3D Printing Your Object
Once you finally scan your desired object, it will be time to 3D print it. However, you will want to avoid printing the object as soon as you scan it. More often than not, you will need to refine the visualization so that it actually looks good when it's time to print it out.
To start, the mesh file you get from the scan will likely be very large. So large, in fact, that it can be quite unwieldy to deal with. To fix this problem, try to refine the file as much as possible.
This will shrink the file without interfering too much with the overall shape of the scanned object. Once you have that done, you'll need to move the file into your preferred CAD software. Preferably, your CAD software will have all the tools you need to print the object scan without too much effort.
In particular, your software should have some high-quality reverse engineering tools on hand. These tools will help you big time and will make the whole printing process a lot easier. Then, you will need to start extracting the object, especially its surfaces, so that you have a sturdy model to print.
What You Need to Know
Automatic surfacing and manual redrawing are the two main methods of doing this. Automatic surfacing is very convenient, but it might not render the object perfectly, and it may make some mistakes. Manual redrawing, on the other hand, will take some time because you'll have to do it with your own hands, but you will have much better control over the results.
There is also semi-automatic surfacing which is a mix of manual and automatic surfacing. Semi-automatic surfacing can help you render parts of the model that may be difficult to render and extract manually. Then, for the easier portions, you can use manual redrawing.
Keep in mind that you will likely need to do this process over and over again before the model finally turns out right. For that reason, it is important to have patience while you are trying to refine and print your object. Once you finally complete all this, however, it will finally be time to print.
Depending on the size of the object, it may take quite a long time to print, but once it's done, you can admire your handiwork.
How to 3D Print Like a Pro
As you have seen, learning how to 3D print with a 3D scanner is not as hard as you might have expected. First, you need to prepare the object, scan it with your 3D scanner of choice, and then refine the model before printing it. Once you figure out this process, 3D printing should be easier than ever before.
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