Luxembourg based Artec 3D have been in the 3D scanning space for over a decade, and have established themselves as one of the forerunners of handheld 3D scanning technology.

Recently, 3DPnews had a questions and answers session with Artec 3D's Chief Business Development Officer, Andrei Vakulenko, to get some insight into Artec's products and philosophies.

What would you say sets Artec Scanners and Software aside from the rest?

Vakulenko: Our commitment to automated functionality and the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is setting us apart from the rest of the 3D scanning industry. The goal is to make 3D scanning and the creation of professional 3D models as easy as shooting a video. With our Artec Studio software’s autopilot features and the intelligence that has been incorporated into the Artec 3D Leo – the first AI-based handled scanner, we’ve dramatically flattened the learning curve associated with using this professional-level technology.

Artec scanning technology has always been fast and accurate and does not require markers to be placed on an object in order to recognise it. And now with Artec Leo we have a wireless 3D scanner with a built-in touchscreen that is used for instant data projection, so there is no need to connect it to a computer. It is a completely new 3D scanning experience. And since the 3D data is processed as you scan, the user sees immediately which areas of the object have been scanned and which have not. Whereas with our older models, users would have to undergo training to learn how to use the scanners to best effect, now anyone can really just pick up Artec Leo and create a high quality 3D model. And with the 80 frames per second capture rate, it is the fastest professional handheld scanner available.

Artec scanners are known for speed, accuracy and ease-of-use, how have those goals been achieved?

Vakulenko: Artec 3D has been in this space for over a decade and we are constantly looking for ways to innovate the field of 3D scanning. The company has a very strong commitment to R&D and combines this with customer feedback. For instance, our Artec Studio 12 software has 28 new features, 75 percent of which were based directly on customer input.

To stay at the forefront of the industry we also incorporate state-of-the-art technologies into our scanners. Our new Artec Leo scanner uses the NVIDIA Jetson platform, which serves as the scanner’s own internal computer. It also has a built-in 9 degrees of freedom inertial system – accelerometer, gyro and compass – which allows the scanner to better understand its position and environment. This enables the device to understand the difference between the object being scanned, the surface it is on and the wall behind it so that it can automatically erase the unwanted data. This is key to making an intelligent 3D scanner which is able to perform complex tasks without input from the user.

Do you have any examples of where Artec products have had a positive impact on a business' workflow and/or profitability?

Vakulenko: Absolutely, from a workflow perspective, the work that is being done by MU Form Furniture is a great example. This is an Oakland-based company that designs, manufactures and distributes modern home and business furniture products. The company works mainly with bent ply and pushes the boundaries with its designs, making furniture that is hard for others to copy or replicate.

Prior to using our technology, MU Form Furniture would create an original piece and ship the physical prototype to a factory overseas to be reverse engineered by a router duplicator to create a wood mould. The mould would often then require additional manual work to fix any inaccuracies or fine-tune the design. There was also no way to perfectly mirror the furniture for accurate symmetry.

With a 3D scanner, the company can scan its prototype and adjust the design digitally. It can be mirrored, surfaces that should be completely flat can be flattened and a number of other changes can be implemented. The file can be emailed to the overseas factory and a CNC metal mould can be created directly from it. The time the company spent to create a mould was reduced from up to 90 days to 20 days and cost savings are in the 10 to 15 percent range.

Should 3D Scanning be opted over 3D design? Why?

Vakulenko: 3D scanning is great for designing with customisation in mind. If you need to create a part to perfectly fit a machine, then you can scan the machine and use that to work your way backwards and design the part. The same principle is used when creating customised prosthetics for patients.

Another case is when you can apply the phrase, “why reinvent the wheel?” For creating VR or AR spaces you can use 3D scanning to reverse engineer existing objects and insert them into a virtual environment. It is simply a much faster process than starting from scratch. In other cases, you may be designing something new by manipulating a 3D scan of an existing object. In many cases 3D scanning becomes a tool for designing unique 3D models.

What would you say is the most surprising/unexpected use for one of your 3D scanning products?

Vakulenko: Pohlig, an orthopaedics technology company in Germany, used our handheld 3D scanners to build a customised prosthesis to enable a client to go fly fishing. The client had broken his neck at the age of 30 and became paralysed from the breast down. He also lost finger function and experienced limited arm function. The prosthesis allowed this individual to resume his passion for fly fishing and now his goal is to catch the 30 species of fish that he has not yet caught on a fly.

Our scanners have been used for so many great and diverse projects. They’ve been used to digitally capture skeletal remains as the site of China’s famous Terracotta Army; been used to scan countless celebrities for films, including Arnold Schwarzenegger for Terminator Genisys; and one company even wanted to use our 3D technology to scan sweet corn with the purpose of counting the kernels on each sheaf. The list is truly endless.

Where do you see the 3D technology industry 5 years from now?

Vakulenko: It will be all about AI. Scanners should have the ability to learn and understand what they are scanning. This will increase the customer base enormously, as 3D scanning will be used not only to create replicas of physical objects, but also to perform quality control tasks during the scanning itself. For instance, using 3D scanning to understand if there are dents in surfaces of aeroplanes, and if so, which ones require attention and which ones are insignificant enough to leave for the time being.

An interesting area to keep an eye on will be any quality control case where it is not easy to explain a yes or no answer. For example, the quality control of car seats - checking to see if the seams are straight enough. Currently, these types of decisions are made by a person, who just judges by eye which seams are straight enough and which are unacceptable. With AI-based 3D scanners, these decisions can be analysed and “subjective” decisions can be produced by the technology.

Similarly, 3D scanners will be able to flag any abnormalities in the shape of the body. The shape of the spine is a good example. In the future, a nurse will be able to use a 3D scanner to check the spines of all children in a school, and, if any issues are found, they will be able to organise for the child to be sent to a specialist for a further check-up.

Are there any upcoming Artec innovations we should be looking forward to?

Vakulenko: We can’t give too much away, but we will continue to develop the path that our Artec Leo and Artec Studio 12 software has started – smart, with AI capabilities, to provide a very easy user experience.

As a company, we’ll also be exploring possibilities to use 3D scanning in combination with deep learning. Right now, we are compiling volunteered 3D scan data from our Artec Shapify Booth – a 3D body scanning booth. The data may have applications for online 3D clothes fittings and measurements and automatically animating 3D scans at a professional level.

Artec 3D is working with Luxembourg University on a research collaboration that is utilising this body scan data to get a better understanding of human posture and how to fit a parametric model to 3D scans. The body scans made by Shapify Booth are high precision, but unless the people are 3D scanned wearing skin tight clothes, these 3D scans by themselves cannot be used for any applications requiring accurate measurements, since the clothes will distort the readings. However, once we understand how to automatically fit a parametric model to the 3D scan, then even if the person was wearing loose fitting clothes, the 3D scan can be successfully used for any applications requiring accurate 3D body measurements.