The LEGO 3D scanner

The LEGO 3D scanner

The LEGO-based 3D scanner allows for automated modelling of small real-world objects - but can take several hours to complete a scan.

If you never quite grew out of building things from LEGO, you'll be interested in Philo Hurbain's little creation: a working 3D scanner constructed entirely from the clever little plastic bricks.

As shown over on Make, the device is designed for use with the LDraw LEGO CAD application – specifically to make it easier for Hurbain to model complex LEGO parts in the software.

Constructed entirely from LEGO Technic parts – aside from a small needle used as the probe for the scanner – the device uses a linear actuator to convert the rotational movement of a motor into a linear movement which could be measured by the surprisingly high resolution LEGO NXT encoder.

The video of the device in action shows how the system moves the probe needle around the device and signals to the computer the points at which contact was made. A second movement module allows the object being scanned to move around and rotate, meaning the scanner can operate completely independently of human control. Using the data recorded by the NXT encoder, the scanner is able to provide a cartesian or cylindrical scan.

While the device is certainly neat – and full plans and source code is provided if you'd like to have a go – Hurbain admits that the device is somewhat slow, with a single scan taking “several hours” to complete. Despite this – and due largely to the fact that the device can be left running overnight – it still represents a significant improvement over measuring and modelling small parts by hand.

Tempted to create your own 3D scanner and create models of teeny-tiny objects, or are you simply in awe of how far LEGO has come since you played with it as a kid? Share your thoughts over in the forums.


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Gunsmith 26th March 2009, 11:16 Quote
we had a proper one of these where i used to work, they are batshit dollapounds so this is a tempting little project.
proxess 26th March 2009, 11:17 Quote
Wow. I was happy enough with the bricks that had wheels on them.
dyzophoria 26th March 2009, 11:59 Quote
wow that is really one heck of device, yeah, LEGO has really come a long way since I was a kid,lol
War-Rasta 26th March 2009, 14:47 Quote
These kind of things always make me wonder, what will kids be playing with in a few years?
Faulk_Wulf 26th March 2009, 15:59 Quote
Further reminding me that I've done **** all with my life. lol.
Omnituens 26th March 2009, 17:38 Quote
I bet he still had trouble finding the damn 3 length rods - was always a 2 or a four :/
HourBeforeDawn 26th March 2009, 18:14 Quote
okay WOW thats impressive
LordPyrinc 26th March 2009, 19:27 Quote
That is sweet!! I might actually consider building that. Will need to do some shopping though.
boggsi 27th March 2009, 00:56 Quote
Originally Posted by Omnituens
I bet he still had trouble finding the damn 3 length rods - was always a 2 or a four :/

Spaceraver 29th March 2009, 11:27 Quote
Wish I had electronic LEGO when I was a kid.

^^I have an entire ziplock bag fulle of 3 length rods. :P
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