Reece Arnott (Univeristy of Otago, New Zealand) is doing a PhD that involves incorporating simple scanning of 3D objects into the Reprap toolchain to allow the user of the Reprap to do primitive 3D photocopying. As a first step to create a proof of concept for a 3D photocopier, software is being created that takes as input a series of digital photos taken of a known calibration sheet with an object on it. This is processed to produce an STL file of that object as output that can then be used by a Reprap to reproduce the shape of the object.
A 0.8 beta version of this software has been released in September 2010 with an initial 1.0 release tentatively scheduled for the end of 2010. Although this software is designed with the Reprap project in mind it is also designed to be versatile and is written as a Java application with the user interface being a multi-step wizard that should be able to be used by most computer users. This will need to be confirmed with user testing and feedback to make sure the design is correct.
The current software is limited to estimating the maximal volume occupied by the object from a minimum of two views. This is to be used in the 1.0 version to narrow down the search space for an algorithm, as yet unwritten, that does color/pattern/texture matching to get a finer grained estimation of the 3d structure of the surface of the object.
Once the software has been proven it is to be integrated into the existing Reprap software and hardware designed for mounting a digital camera or webcam on a tool-head and automating the picture taking process.
As a final stage in the PhD the parts for the 3d photocopier version of the Reprap will be given to a number of users selected for their interest in the concept rather than any knowledge or DIY skills and the users will be monitored to see where there are any problems in putting it together that could be further improved.