Sunday, August 6, 2023

First Video Demonstrating the THREE 3D Scanner from Matter & Form

Matter & Form has been seeking interaction from the 3D scanning community on the Reddit 3D Scanning forums as they continue to develop the THREE 3D Scanner I mentioned in my earlier post.  It's tough crowd.  And, rightly so.  Most of us with experience with scanners costing less than $10,000 have wanted more out of our scanners than we've gotten.

That is not to say that we haven't gotten some value out of our scanners.  At Youthquest, our at-risk students enjoyed using  the 1st generation Cubify scanner and the inexpensive xyzPrinting handheld scanner even with these scanners limited resolution and loss of tracking issues.  And, they were able to gain valuable experience in problem solving as they learned how to improve scans.  Even so, quicker, more reliable scans would always have been appreciated.

The Reddit 3D scanning community rightly demanded visible proof of the new scanner's capabilities by asking for tough scanning challenges.  One of the challenges was a pile of coins.

Now, a pile of coins, it turns out, is an excellent demonstration of a scanner's abilities.  Specularity, or the shininess of coins, is a big challenge to any 3D scanner.  And, the low depth of the features of a coin require a very high level of resolution cloud point to be able to discern a coin's tiny features.  The Matter and Form team took them up on the challenge and created this video.

While the results, for the most part, are self evident that this new scanner has excellent resolution, there is even more to see in this video for those of us who have longed for a scanner that could be successfully used in a variety of classroom situations or that could produce the fine detail required for accurately capturing things like antique auto parts for 3D printing.

50 Micron Resolution & Accuracy

Along with the video itself, Matter and Form provided links to download the results of the scan.  To help me better analyze the actual resolution, I uploaded the scans in Meshlab and painted the scan in various colors.  Here are two GIFs I captured as I explored the output.

Coins captured by Matter & Form THREE 3D Scanner

When you consider how low the relief is in this coin, the detail is remarkable!  And, we have to consider that some of the original detail has to have been lost because the coin had been sprayed with a dulling powder to reduce specularity.  But, another way to evaluate the scan is by looking at the quality of the mesh as demonstrated when only the triangles are observed.

Mesh Triangles Captured By Matter & Form THREE

I first used Meshlab's measurement features to get an idea of the size of the coin.  It was about 30,8mm across. What jumps out immediately is the density of the mesh.  But, if we click on this image to zoom to a larger view, we can also see the uniformity of the mesh.  This is a great quality mesh!  And, that is important with scanned output, since we usually plan to bring it into 3D design processing for mash-ups, touch-up and other enhancements before printing.

Mesh Uniformity from the M&F THREE 3D Scanner

And, while you may not have noticed while the video was playing, this was scanned at the MEDIUM settings for scan quality!!  (10:15 in the video)


While Drew, from Matter & Form, specifically mentions that they have not yet turned their attention to optimizing scanning speed, the next thing I noted in the video was that even in the non-optimized state, the THREE 3D scanner seems infinitely faster than any other scanner I have used in the past.  Consider this clip I grabbed from the Youtube video.

As this clip demonstrates, it only took around 4 seconds to capture and about 5 seconds to process the scan.  This is all done in the scanner, itself.  The speed is NOT dependent on the computer being used to show the interface.  This means we can expect uniform speed performance regardless of the platform we used to connect to the scanner.  Since we use everything from multi-processor i7 computers to Google Kids Tablets, this is an intriguing capability. 

While it remains to be seen how this performs in highly complex multi-pass turntable scans with full texture, it certainly shows promise.


The scan process, itself, is visible in the small window at the top right of the Youtube video. Here is another grab from the Youtube video to help us focus on the process.  (There is no sound and it's best to click and expand the view before viewing.)

As you can see, a series of images are projected onto the target objects using a white-light DLP projector.  The two Sony 13mp cameras capture the deformations in these patterns to calculate depth.  But, if we stop here when evaluating a scanning solution, we miss the real heart of the benefit of a great scanning process.  And, that is in how much can we, as users, control the parameters.

The reason why this is important is that the process we see in the above image is only a micro-process.  The REAL process has to do with the evolution of our understanding of all of the factors that go into a successful result in any given situation.  We need to be able learn more and more with each scanning session so that it takes less and less time to capture a successful scan in each subsequent session.

And, here is where Matter & Form's software has excelled relative to all of the other scanning solutions with which I've had experience.  They provide a by-the-numbers approach with excellent visual feedback.  Consider this short clip.  (Click for larger view. This clip has sound)

By saying Matter & Form provides us with a "by-the-numbers" approach, I am talking about the use of sliders with clearly documents values.  And, when I talk about feed back, I mean the real-time updates of the images showing how changes to the sliders affect the work area.  It was this approach that made the original Matter & Form the most effective scanner in the classroom of all that we used., including the Einscan.  

I'll go back to my video game days with Astrocade to explain why this is so important.  The reason we were rated #1 by consumer reports, even though our console was much more expensive than the Atari and others, was that our game designers understood the nature of failure.  That was because they had also designed the original coin-op versions.  They knew that it was important that every level increased the challenges, making failure a design feature.  But, when a person failed, the worse possible outcome was that they believed that it was because the system, itself, made it impossible to succeed.  Players would not put another quarter into a machine unless they believed they understood how they could do better the next time they tried.  People need to know they can improve.

Each time we scan with a specific setting, remembering the visible feedback we got from that setting, we have the basis for a new starting place should that scan not turn out as we had hoped.  Precise numbers allow us to bracket values until we get the optimal result no matter how many tries that might involve.  Our students learned from each scanning pass and, ultimately, were able to come up with the best starting place for every situation.  This was not true of most of our other scanners which left student puzzling when a capture lost tracking or failed..  

NOTE: I actually would like to retain the image during the scanning process.  But, I suspect that it might reduce the processing load by removing it during heavy calculations.


Matter & Form seems to be retaining the best aspects of their proven user interface while delivering a much faster scan at an even much higher resolution.  There was a lot of skepticism about the edge computing strategy where the workload of the scanning process is performed entirely in the scanner and does not rely on the power of the attached computer.  But, at least we know that single scan sessions are quick and the resulting mesh is fantastic quality with very, very impressive resolution.   So far, I am very excited about the potential.


This video is impressive.  But, it only addresses the depth resolution.  The other aspect of scanning is material capture. None of my previous scanning experience has been with having scanner based on such high resolution imaging cameras. The two 13mp imaging cameras used by Matter & Form in the new THREE 3D Scanner have two positive characteristics.  The first is that they are based on chips made by Sony.  I have been a fan of Sony video products snce 1967 or 1968 and if any company knows how to capture clean video it's Sony. And, the 13mp size is in a sweet spot for great dynamic range and low noise.  So, I'm very helpful that we will see surprisingly great material capture as well as depth capture.  It's going to be fun seeing what come next as more videos are released in the coming days, weeks and months.

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