People have been using the Microsoft Kinect with 3D printing for a while now using excellent programs like Kyle McDonald’s KinectToStl. However, until recently, most programs can only capture one side of an object which creates a kind of relief sculpture. To get around this limitation, you could take multiple scans and manually merge them. (hard) Others like the blablabLAB calibrates and positions multiple Kinect sensors around a scene. (expensive) Last year Microsoft demonstrated something called Kinect Fusion that allows you to carry the Kinect around and dynamically capture all angles of a scene in real time. Unfortunately, they did not release any software. Profactor has just released a beta version of free software called ReconstructMe that works a lot like Kinect Fusion.
I’ve scanned a number of things so far, check out the reconstructme tag on Thingiverse! ReconstructMe works a lot like the Polhemus scanner we used to scan Stephen Colbert where you walk around and wave the Kinect across a scene to capture all sides. Although the resolution is lower, at least you don’t have to dust your hair in corn starch! As a matter of fact I’ve found the best way to scan a person is to have them sit in an office chair, point the Kinect at their head, and then slowly spin themselves in a circle. Once you have a raw scan, I suggest using the free version of NetFabb Studio Basic to rotate it, Cut away the parts you don’t want, and then Repair it to make it solid and suitable for 3D printing on your MakerBot. The Ponoko blog has an excellent video explaining the process. You can also place objects on a turntable, like a lazy susan and spin it by hand. Just make sure that anything ReconstructMe sees within it’s scanning area all rotates in the same way.
There are some limitations to ReconstructMe. It is Windows only. In order to do real time reconstruction, you need a fairly powerful video card as it does the calculations on the GPU. There is an offline recording option that allows you to record on a slower computer and then process it later using a more powerful computer. However, you don’t get the realtime feedback alerting you when you move too fast or go out of alignment. Due to the low resolution of the Kinect camera, it’s not that great for scanning small things. For that, you might want to try something like Spinscan. However, for scanning large objects like people – it’s awesome! So go download ReconstructMe and be sure to tag anything you make on Thingiverse with the reconstructme tag.
Quality would probably be better if you had someone else to wave the kinect around your head. At the least, they’d be able to capture the top of your head.
This time instead of turning in a chair, I waved the kinect around her manually.