A team of scientists has been working on a new device, in the form of a camera chip, that could be used on smartphones and provide them with the ability to 3D scan any object. This sort of feature is very sought-after in the field of 3D printing, said the scientists.
The inventors of the new camera chip are a team of engineers from the California Institute of Technology, known as Caltech. According to them, the new device was based on a silicon chip that measured less than 1mm square but can be used to produce 3D scans that have a very high resolution.
These special chips can be incorporated into smartphones and used as 3D scans, sending the data to 3D printers in order to duplicate the scanned objects. This would eliminated the need for larger desktop printing devices, said the engineers who developed the 3D camera chip.
The scientists explained that the new 3D device works by using beams of light to scan the desired object.
Then it can detect any differences in the light that the object reflects back. These differences help the camera chip construct a 3D image of that object.
To release the bean of light, the 3D scanning chip uses a variety of small LIDAR laser beam scanners. LIDAR stands for “light detection and ranging”.
The LIDAR lasers have been used for a long time in applications like navigation for robots and driverless cars.
The light that the scanned object reflects is then collected by a tiny 4×4 grid of detecting devices, according to the engineers who invented the device.
The scientists detailed their findings in a study published in the journal Optics Express.
The small detectors’ role is to measure the frequency, phase and intensity of the reflected light and to assign a distance value to each of the pixels in the 3D image of scanned object.
The engineers used the camera chip to scan a penny from a distance of half a meter. The 3D scan managed to recreate the undulations and patterns found on the surface of the penny that are almost invisible if looked at with the naked eye.
However, the 16-pixels array can be increased to hundreds of thousands in order to create a larger and more accurate set of applications that can be used to help driverless cars avoid the obstacles, according to the engineers at Caltech.
Ali Hajimiri, one of the scientists at Caltech, explained that the small size and extremely high quality of the new chip for 3D scanners will help reduce costs of 3D scanning by incorporating them into smartphones.
Image Source: 3ders.org