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Perspectives of 3D technology

  • 4-19-2012

Perspectives of 3D technology

The 3D is flourishing these days; most movies can (also) be watched in 3D, and 3D TVs as well as games are coming! These are the ones with which we meet in the everyday life, but there are some revolutionary 3D processes too, which can directly influence our future.


3D scanning

The so-called three-dimensional scanners, which don’t establish physical contact with the examined object, are fundamental tools of spatial image creation. They work with laser or white light, and they form images using the reflection of the light. The two main units of the 3D scanner are the video camera and the projector. The projector projects a “white-dark” network, which are built up from thinner and thinner stripes, onto the object. Changes of light intensity and border areas of contrast grids create comparison data, which show us the three coordinates, the X, the Y and the Z axis that are the width, the height and the depth. Unlike two-dimensional cameras, this method makes perfect measurements with no distortions possible.

3D scanning is often used in the building industry, for example at construction of tunnels, when fast and accurate measurements are required, but it is also used in dental technology and in anthropological research, especially in facial reconstruction investigations.

Let’s print a jaw...

Actually all two-dimensional spatial objects are made ​​up from a multitude of layers. So why not to fix the printed layers on each other to create a real, tangible object? All this is possible; moreover, the method has already been used in practice for some time.

The most modern 3D printers build objects from layers with a thickness of some microns, using UV-light curing polymers. Depending on different uses, these materials can be transparent, can have a flexible, rubber-like behaviour, and may have greater strength as well, which can also be perfectly used for modelling various machine components. The technology is so successful that you can already buy a 3D printer at an available price (for some thousands of dollars) for domestic use. What’s more devices connected to 3D scanners also exist, which can promptly reproduce an object after it is scanned.

3D printing can also be applied in the medical science. For example, a complete titanium lower jaw was made ​​for an 83 year-old Belgian woman, and it was successfully implanted too. Actually doctors and printer engineers developed a brand new, specially designed jaw for the patient, since on the implant they made grooves and cups for muscle attachments, and for the growth of new blood vessels and nerves. The printer uses laser beams to melt the consecutive thin titanium powder layers. Each layer was melted onto the previous one; altogether 33 layers were necessary to create a one-millimetre-thick part. Finally thousands of layers were needed to create the jaw. An artificial bone of 107 grams was made under a couple of hours.

Watch the video about how a 3D printer works:

3D in space

Engineers have agreed for a long time that it is not very economic to assemble a satellite here, on Earth, and to launch it into space only after it is assembled. But what could we do? Recently, a space technology development company has come up with the idea that the components should be built up in the space with gigantic 3D printers. According to the idea, printers could be remote controlled from Earth. If all of these things came true, many components such as shields and supports could be saved, which now serve to protect the satellite while it gets out into the space.

Printers could be used to make satellites, while the crew of the International Space Station could use them to reproduce damaged components quickly. According to the most daring ideas “space printers” could collect, break down or even reuse space debris orbiting around the Earth.

Real-time 3D visualization

Using real-time 3D technology, we can immediately create a 3D model of a continuously moving figure. The conventional name of the method is motion capture. Markers are put on the moving model, which can be a human body too, and the movements of the object are recorded with special cameras. Finally these movements are projected onto a 3D object, which does exactly the same movements that was being done before by the original object. However, with a scanning like this, only a skeleton model made from 10-20 dots can be created.

There is a new technology, which is even more precise: markers don’t need to be put on the body, but several cameras record it from different angles, which means that the model of the body created in this way is much more detailed. This is the so-called reconstruction process, which makes three-dimensional models by also using the tools of three-dimensional computer vision, graphics and geometry.

Real-time 3D visualization is used especially a lot in the film industry, but with its development medicine and other areas may make a use of it as well. The immediate display of a three-dimensional model may make a breakthrough in the world of telecommunication, since with proper camera systems, our conversation partner, who is on the other side of the world, could appear in front of us.

Watch how 3D imaging was used in the Avatar movie:

Interesting facts

As a new milestone of watching television, the BBC will broadcast some of the programs of the London Olympic Games live with 3D technology. Three-dimensional broadcasting is not new, since, for example in Japan, there is a TV-channel which broadcasts all the TV programs in 3D. The novelty is the live 3D broadcasting, to which a major infrastructure is required on site.