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Design and Scanning issues

Before we can print, we need a digital file of what needs printing. We cannot just take a hand drawn sketch or a couple of photos and then be in a position to get printing. Someone has to take those ideas and turn them into a printable file. This is a skilled job.


It is possible to do moderately precise scans of small items using scanners costing in the region of £400- £1000. These scans are not very happy with things like flat shiny surfaces and people’s hair. In our opinion, these entry level scanners are inadequate for professional jobs like reverse engineering where scans have to be accurate to a millimetre or below. At the moment, to get that degree of accuracy, you would need to use scanners costing in the £10-20,000 range.


Photogrammetry is a simple alternative for a number of jobs. This involves


Stone Axe Head

Being shiny


Copy of a Rook Statue in Fowey

Gary Thrussell

Little Louis.jpg

Copy of a Clay Model

A young me (Louis Turner)


I am slowly building experience in CAD - Computer Aided Design. I use Autocad’s Fusion 360 package, which offers nearly everything that’s in Solidworks, is priced more sensibly, and is cloud-based so does not require massively powerful computers on earth.

It is relatively easy to design from clear drawings with precise measurements. Turning designs scribbled on the back of restaurant menus is more challenging, but can be done, providing the client is clear in their mind as to precisely what they want. What gets hard is when clients turn up with worn and broken spare parts, which they want replicating. It’s not always clear how the worn or broken faces actually worked in practice, thus putting a lot of uncertainty onto us designers.

We’ve mentioned photogrammetry and scanning as ways of producing printable digital images. What is more problematic is when people send us two-dimensional photos of what they want designed. It’s not possible to produce a precise design from a single photo, but it is possible to produce something relatively OK from disciplined set of photos - front, back, the two side, top and bottom - with some precise measurements of the key dimensions. If the object is a relatively uncomplex shape, then the design process would be moderately straight-forward. The more one is dealing with organic shapes (flowers, dolls etc),the harder the design challenge will be.


I can offer workshops for people wanting to learn the basics of Fusion 360. These could be in the form of a day workshop, or, as I’ve recently done with some teachers, four two-hour evening sessions. If you’re interested, please fill in the form on this site where you can express interest in getting more details.