Bringing affordable 3D Scanning to the masses.
Matter and Form are a company aiming to bring the real world into your 3D applications via scanning technology.
The Matter and Form 3D Scanner is a laser based object scanner that is primarily aimed towards consumers and hobbyists.
In the grand scheme of things in this part of the world it is an inexpensive solution to a typically more expensive problem.
You can scan small objects ranging from apples (a staple test in this community it seems!) to busts or figures. The world is open to you, anything you can fit on the test bed, you can give a whirl.
Once scanned in you can simply save them as a 3D file or output them directly to a 3D printer.
The scanner itself is light at under 4 lbs, comes with a neat carry handle when folded away (which is a smart design feature) and can quite happily sit on a corner of your desk without too much hindrance.
The entire construction is made from a plastic substance that is light but fairly rugged, I wouldn’t be afraid of it getting scratched up or broken in typical day to day operation.
When you open the scanner the front portion lowers down into a horizontal position revealing the turntable and scanner itself.
It is a pretty snazzy design as the handle holds the turntable steady and makes sure it sits flat but ensures the device is compact enough when folded away.
Upon opening the scanner you will immediately notice the 7–inch turntable that you sit your objects on, along with the dual laser headed HD CMOS camera that sits opposite.
The typical workflow for scanning an object with the Matter and Form 3D Scanner is as follows:
Unfold scanner and plug in
Find suitable object
Place object on turntable
Load up software
Run quick calibration
Clean up results
Print / Export
It is a very simple process that even someone who is not tech savvy could follow with the included instructions.
The scanner works by using the opposing lasers to scan a vertical strip on the object, which the camera then records the reflections of.
Scanning software then creates a point cloud from the data which tracks the object structure.
Once it records that slice, it rotates slightly and does the same for the next area.
This carries on until it has done a 360 degree rotation, whereby the camera and laser assembly raises up to the highest point that it scanned and does another rotation.
The scanner does this until the entire object has been scanned.
The Matter and Form Scan software is fairly straight forward to use, definitely helpful on the consumer end of the market.
You have 3 options when starting up, New Scan, Calibrate, Scan Viewer.
These are pretty self explanatory, New scan starts the scanning process, Calibrate does what it says on the tin and Scan viewer allows you to look at previously scanned items you have saved.
Upon your first time starting the software (by which you have to register an account on their website and feed in the serial number on the underneath of the scanner), you will have to hook up the scanner via the included USB cable.
It will then ask you to calibrate by using the bundled chequerboard pattern block by putting it on the turntable and letting it do it’s thing.
Once that is out of the way, you can get to scanning whatever object you desire.
Simply centre it on the turntable, press the New Scan button and it will ask you whether the object is single colour or multiple colour.
If it is single colour you can simply start, but if it is different colours you are asked to pick a part of the object to scan that is the lightest and then part that is the darkest.
This allows the scanner to not get confused mid scan.
Scanning an object can be as quick as 5 minutes for smaller less detailed scans, but can take several hours if you ramp up the detail setting and use a larger object.
We would typically ramp up the detail setting and leave it going overnight or while we were away to get the best results.
When the scan completes you are given the option to Save Now or Save Later.
Save now saves the object in the Matter and Form Proprietary MFC format that is only able to be opened in the scan software.
You also have the option to clean up the point cloud as well as crop areas out.
For instance if there are points out on the turntable that are not meant to be there, you can choose a radius around the centre from which to crop.
This leaves your model untouched but removes outside points.
There is also the ability to crop vertically meaning any points lower down or above can be removed.
Not to mention the new ability just added recently that allows you manually scrub and clean out points using your cursor, that is a fantastic feature.
Finally there is an auto clean feature that tries to remove any extraneous points that you do not want.
Once complete you can save in a variety of formats, including — PTX, XYZ, PLY, and STL.
STL being the primary format for most 3D printing services.
Impressions and Final Thoughts
During my time testing the Matter and Form 3D Scanner I had a lot of fun trying out various objects, it was tough at first to get decent scans but I quickly learned it was me making the mistakes and not the scanner.
You need it in an environment with constant lighting and no background movement if possible to get the best scans, any of these factors can drastically change the scan result.
In the near future I am going to build an enclosed lightbox for the scanner to try and get the best out of it, this way I can control the lighting by making sure it’s intensity and uniformity is optimal.
An objects material can also effect the scan quality, matte single colour objects typically bringing the best results.
In most cases the scanner performed admirably, giving a fair impression of the item being scanned, although the meshing seems to lose details, especially fine details as they seemingly just get smoothed over.
This however can change depending on the object and lighting but in most cases I would have to say it is not the BEST at finer details.
However for the price, the space saving capability and form, the scanner is definitely in a realm of it’s own.
It enables developers, consumers and hobbyist into a world of exploration that they typically could not access.
Once I get a proper set up I will give this another run and let you all know via social media like our Twitter @MillionModelsUK to see if this can improved upon in more optimal conditions.
Be sure to check out their site at www.matterandform.net and buy one if you feel it is something that you could enjoy exploring or add to your workflow.
Their upcoming Bevel looks VERY interesting, we will try and get our hands on a review unit and bring you another article in the coming months.