Create a Point Cloud for Use as a Factory Asset

24 Aug, 2014 By: Rusty Belcher

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Don’t waste time modeling your next factory asset — grab a camera instead.

Editor's note: Scroll to the end of this article to watch the video version of this tip. This tutorial courtesy of IMAGINiT Technologies.

Reality capture and point cloud technologies are becoming much more prevalent in today’s manufacturing environment. Today, point clouds and scanned meshes are regularly used design tools for modeling applications and 3D printers. In many cases, you can produce a fairly good quality point cloud with pictures from a handheld digital camera or camera-equipped mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.

You may wonder why you’d want to use a point cloud instead of a solid model. In many cases, point clouds can be generated from scanners or cameras in much less time than is required to produce a standard solid model using conventional 3D practices. In many design workflows, the final form of the machine is not known, so solid models must be created as digital prototypes or digital representations. But in many cases, the machine is already built and sitting on the factory floor. In this case, it is much easier and more efficient to utilize reality capture tools to generate a point cloud of the actual machine instead of developing a 3D solid model from hundreds of time-consuming manual measurements.

In this IMAGINiT Tricks tutorial, we will outline the process of generating a point cloud from photos using the new ReCap Photo service from Autodesk. The point cloud we generate will be used as an asset for the Autodesk Factory Design Suite.

Starting with the Pictures

The process starts off by taking many pictures of a machine from all directions and angles. It is important to include the entire machine in every picture, and to take pictures from both high and low angles. Every machine will be different, but in general it will require about 60 pictures to produce a decent point cloud.

There are several other criteria to keep in mind when photographing the machine, including:

  • Collect pictures from all angles. Take pictures every 5 to 10 degrees as you circle the machine. Use a ladder to obtain images from higher positions as you circle the machine again.
  • Avoid reflections and glare. Reflective surfaces are very difficult to stitch in the final scan.
  • Create color contrast. The machine should stand out against the surrounding background.
  • Use a consistent light source. The light source should remain constant in a single position. Do not use a flash.
  • Photograph textured surfaces when possible. Textured surfaces are much easier to stitch in the final scan.

ReCap Photo

Taking the pictures is the hard part; once you have them, generating the point cloud is very easy. Simply log into your Autodesk 360 account and select the ReCap Photo option from your 360 Benefits.

Access Autodesk ReCap Photo from your Autodesk 360 account and begin generating the point cloud from your pictures.

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About the Author: Rusty Belcher

Rusty Belcher

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