3D Printers

The Future of 3D Scanning: The Latest Research From Carnegie Mellon University

3D scanning and printing technology is booming. Innovators in the 3D printing industry are either trying to take this new technology and make it accessible and affordable to the masses or they are trying to solve complex problems using the unique capabilities of specific materials or machines. It’s a fast moving, constantly shifting market. In this race to innovate, every once in a while we get a glimpse of the maturing technology as it becomes more subtle and complex.


Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University are working on a 3D scanning technology that will capture both the shape of an object and how each surface element on the object interacts with light. When light interacts with an opaque surface it is distributed in several directions, this process is called bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF).

The technique that CMU has been developing estimates the BRDF at each surface element of an object. Each of the many surface elements of the object are isolated, making this technique unique in being able to capture light interaction with visually complex objects.

The basic premise is that if you know how commonly occurring materials interact with light, then you should be able to explain relatively well the visual properties of an object with unknown composition by relying on the information you have on the commonly occurring materials. Like most big ideas, it is a pretty simple proposition. The CMU team has been able to begin modeling, analyzing and shaping the supposed reflectance of an object.

Where do they see this technology going? First, they are excited about the possible “Reality Computing” applications. Realistically capturing real-world objects that can be manipulated in real-time is an exciting leap forward for this kind of 3D imaging technology. The CMU team is also very excited about the infinitely more complex objects that can be captured and printed using this scanning technology. The last application would be to capture museum pieces and projects and enabling people to explore these pieces using the internet.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University Electrical And Computer Engineering