LearnX event gives students hands-on experience with 3D scanning

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Beyza Akinci, ’22, looked on, awestruck at what she was witnessing — like most Lehigh students, she had never seen a 3D scanner used on a person’s face.

Akinci was one of 16 participants who learned about the components of 3D object scanning at the LearnX event, “From Atoms to Pixels,” on Sept. 24 in the Wilbur Powerhouse.

“My high school never had any of these technologies that Lehigh students are so fortunate to have,” Akinci said. “It’s nice to know that I (can) just walk in here and use these resources whenever I need.”

Those powerful technologies include devices such as 3D scanners, advanced modeling software and structured light-scanning programs. The hardware was donated by Lehigh alumni who now work at printing giant Hewlett Packard. The equipment can be found in Wilbur, located on East Packer Ave.

“From Atoms to Pixels,” which was part of a Mountaintop initiative to give students experience with cutting-edge technologies and ideas, was instructed by Skipper Erickson, ’19, and Evan Mehok, ’19. Erickson and Mehok taught students how to import 3D-scanned objects into different software platforms to advance and manipulate a scanned object.

Skipper Erickson, ’19, instructed students on how to import 3-D scanned objects into different software platforms to advance and manipulate a scanned object on Monday, September 24th, 2018, in Wilbur Powerhouse. Hewlett Packard alumni gifted Lehigh 3-D scanners, advanced modeling software systems and structured light-scanning programs, and other novel technologies. (Delaney McCaffrey/B&W Staff)

“The whole goal of 3D scanning is to convert any object you have into a 3D file that you can then edit, change or replicate with a 3D printer,” Erickson said.

Erickson said 3D scanners generate a point cloud of measurements, made up of lines and triangles, that are meshed together into a surface to create an object. His demonstration began with an introduction of the EinScan-Pro, a multi-functional 3D scanner. He then explained the differences between high-definition scanning and rapid scanning.

The EinScan-Pro scanning software allows users to create open or closed watertight models, which Erickson said are ideal for 3D printing.

Bill Whitney, the administrative director of the Office of Creative Inquiry, organized the event and said the purpose behind LearnX events is to provide students with hands-on experiences.

“We want students to get their hands dirty and figure out how the equipment really works and engage with the topic,” Whitney said.

Afterward, students were introduced to a slightly more precise structured light scanner that involved the HP3 Scanpro program, in which a projector is placed and focused a certain distance away from the camera.

Jing Su, a graduate doctoral fellowship candidate, said he enjoyed learning about the HP3 Scanpro program and is eager to come back and use these technologies for academic projects.

At the end of his demonstration, Erickson discussed some practical applications for 3D scanning. He said 3D scanning can be used for reverse engineering, creating virtual reality environments and fixing broken objects.

“You can even make your own real-world object, change the color and put it into a video game,” Mehok said.

The Wilbur Powerhouse is open Monday through Friday to all Lehigh students. Erickson said the staff is willing to help students learn about how to use any of the 3D scanners or any other technologies in the building.

All technologies are free for student use except the 3D printers, which may have costs associated with projects outside of classes.

“We have gotten really good feedback from the students so far and the turnout at LearnX events tends to be really strong,” Whitney said. “I think it’s because these are the skills and technologies that students really want to learn about — the technologies that define our world.

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