Saturday, August 26, 2023

Matter and Form THREE: Third Example Scan (Car Parts)

 Matter and Form continues to reveal more examples as they continue to develop their new THREE 3D Scanner system.  The first scan demonstrated scanning very small, shiny objects (coins) that demonstrated excellent detail of fine features of the coins.  The second scan demonstrated scanning a typical turntable sized object, a shoe and demonstrated 360 degree scanning in ALL directions, including the sole.  And, now comes the third example.  The air intake on a Mustang.

This example not only demonstrates how larger targets are captured; but, give us more insight into the entire scanning and post-processing workflow.

I have worked with the original Matter and Form scanner and it is the workflow of that scanner that lead me to be a huge fan of Matter and Form's approach to 3D scanning.  So, this video was especially important to me.  It demonstrated that the designers of the THREE have built upon their earlier excellent scanning process; but, also have given us even MORE control over the final outcome by adding manual alignment tools.

Putting the three demonstration videos together, we can begin to organize our thoughts into four categories to evaluate how the THREE will help those of us that believe their is an important place for 3D scanning in education.

  • Scan Quality
  • Scan Bandwidth
  • Capture Process
  • Post-Capture Process

Each of these categories represent important advances demonstrated by the THREE and the processes presented by Matter and Form and their suitability for the classroom.


The first Matter and Form Scanner began life in 2012 and was introduced in 2013 as a crowd-funded project on Indiegogo

That means that they have had almost a decade of experience working with users and listening to what they wanted in the next generation of scanners.  They also had time to evaluate not only their initial scanning strategies; but, the strategies of others, and have opted to move to using Fixed Position, white-light scanning for the THREE rather than being handheld.  The result is vastly superior resolution and accuracy over first generation scanners.  The details in the coin captures demonstrated this.  But, the smoothness of the smooth areas of the air duct further confirm it.  There is still a little noise patterning; but, may less than any of the 3D scanners we have used.  It's very impressive.

Obviously, scan quality is at the top of everyone's list when looking forward to a new scanning platform.  But, it is not the only consideration in an educational setting.  As I have written before, the Einscan may have been able to obtain better results than the original Matter and Form in some cases;  But, from an educational value perspective the Matter and Form's workflow was superior.  And, our primary job is to provide the most valuable educational experience to the students in our care. With this new scanner, it appears we will get both very high scan results and an enhanced workflow in every respect.


 I struggled with how to describe this category of evaluationBut, I settled on the term bandwidth to cover both the breadth of the THREE's ability to capture dark as well as lighter objects and the much wider range of sizes that can be captured.  A scanner that is equally capable of capturing the details of coins and the expanse of engine parts has to be recognized as having pretty wide bandwidth!

But, special mention has to be made of the enhanced ability to capture darker objects than first generation scanners.  We struggled with this issue with ALL of the scanners we used and I cannot wait to see the final performance of the THREE in this regard firsthand.  The air duct scan looks awesome and shows real promise in this important area.  While they did mention the parts were dusty, they did not have to spray the parts to capture an excellent scan.

The first Matter and Form scanner was married to the turntable.  While the THREE benefits by being able to use a turntable, it is now freed from being locked to it.  This video not only demonstrates how this new strategy increases the bandwidth for targets; but, for those of us that have experience using handheld scanners, confirms the wisdom of taking the fixed-position, tripod approach.  It is MUCH faster and completely removes the lost tracking issues plaguing handheld users..


Where the first Matter and Form scanner excelled over all the other scanners we used was in the process they presented to the user.  Giving the user control over quicker scan times vs. immediate quality is so much more important in the classroom than one might first believe.  But, enhancing that ability by vastly improving scan speed is a real game changer for users.  Scan time appears to be stunningly fast with the THREE.  

Thankfully, the THREE retains my favorite part of the Matter and Form workflow... multi-step scan projects.   

With the low-cost handheld scanners we've used, the capture was an all or nothing proposition.  You get what you get.  Matter and Form projects, on the other hand, can always be amended and improved by adding scans.  

While it's easily missed, we see this, in action, in this video when Drew realizes that he did not capture enough overlap between two segments being captured and added a new scan covering the oversight.

Even if he had not realized this until MUCH later, he STILL could have saved the final scan by coming back and adding a new scan to the process!

While I won't get deep into the value of the feedback offered by the projection system as new scans are being considered, seeing it helps me in thinking about how I could use this feature in the classroom to engage ALL of the students in the capture process.  We'll come back to this topic as new examples are released.


Being able to have a project where multiple scans are combined automatically to form a final product was one of the things I liked most about the original Matter and Form.  But, sometimes, being able to control the alignment manually is of real benefit.  I REALLY like the strategy we see in the above video where we see the use of color coding and large numeric targets being used to aid us in manually telling the software how we want individual scans aligned to complete the whole.

From a teacher's perspective, this presents the perfect platform for students to develop critical thinking skills as they have to compare parts presented in different spacial orientations looking for point pairs.  Deciding the order in which individual scans are added to the combined project also provides valuable insight and experience.

But, I am wondering if this isn't an area where providing a hybrid approach to the post-processing interface might not be very valuable for classrooms.

We are told that the THREE will be using an edge computing strategy where all of the actual work is being performed by the scanning hardware, itself, with a browser based user interface. If this remains true for every aspect of the workflow then it has some implications for the classroom.

It means that the post-processing must be done while the scanner is attached to the browser. As an individual, I have no problem with that.  And, I can certainly appreciate it as a teacher.

But, to me, a hybrid approach would offer something special.  Distributed engagement.  By that I mean homework.

If, in addition to the onboard software of the THREE, there was an app that could handle post-processing independently of the THREE, then each student could be tasked with using those scans to create a final result.  This presents an opportunity for ownership of each student over the entire capture process, even if they only observed the original scanning.  And, it would give the teacher a better gauge with which to evaluate a student's actual understanding of the process.

If that app also included something like Tinkercad's classroom strategy, where teachers can easily bring up the work of individual student's for review, it would be even more beneficial.  While this is probably not viable for the initial release of THREE, I think it is something that would make it even more appealing to educators.

But, for now, I am just grateful that Matter and Form has not only kept the workflow we have come to appreciate; but, appears to be improving and refining it to give us even more control over our scans.


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