Geo Week News

January 20, 2011

Build your own laser scanner? Yeah, there is a class for that.

It’s definitely pretty cool to see laser scanning start to come into the mainstream. I came across another indication of this today: A class you can take to build your own laser scanner. Basically, it uses the David software platform, a high-res web cam and a basic laser. But I’m sure it works pretty well for object scanning.

The class is offered by a very cool seeming place called 6smith. Check out their self-description:

6smith is a digital prototyping studio dedicated to the incorporation of state-of-the-art technologies in the creation process of art and designed objects. We teach artists, designers, architects and engineers how to incorporate digital fabrication systems into their existing workflow for real-world production. 

Now that is something the 3D imaging industry can use. It’s independent of any of the manufacturers. It’s local and grassroots. It’s accessible. And 6smith comes at the technology from the point of view of the artist/architect/engineer. Laser scanning and other new technology are just offering more tools for creating what you see in your mind’s eye. 

It’s funny, but in some ways artists are just as conservative as engineers or surveyors or any other profession that’s been successful with one set of tools and is resistant to try new tools. You’d think artists would be progressive, since making great art is often based on pushing the envelope and creating something that no one has ever created before. But the tools artists use are often borderline archaic: charcoal? Is there an older substance you could use for creating art than that? Watercolors? Oil-based paints? 

Yet, of course, people still make beautiful new art every day with these relatively rudimentary tools. Similarly, visionary buildings are designed in 2D with pencils and paper. Not much differently, in an abstract and simplified sense, than what DaVinci was doing. 

How do we grab the imaginations of artists and designers and engineers and show them how 3D imaging and other tools for capturing the real world around them can help them realize the visions that dance through their heads?

Well, one way is to set up classes in their neighborhoods and invite them to come take part for a relatively reasonable cost. $800 to learn how to build and walk away with a laser scanner? Not too shabby. 

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