From Reality to Digital Manufacturing through Xbox One Kinect At TTU

The Kinect motion sensor (3D scanning) that Microsoft built for its Xbox 360 and Xbox One gaming consoles is a product that never quite caught on. The company discontinued the Kinect product in late 2017, but you can still find them on Amazon or other sites in new, used or refurbished condition.

So, why an update on a discontinued product and what could a gaming motion sensor have to do with digital manufacturing? Well, under the leadership of Professor of Manufacturing Technology Ismail Fidan, students at Tennessee Tech University (TTU) Engineering Department have the answer to that.

While the Kinect was mostly designed for use with the Xbox gaming console, savvy educators, engineers, makers, and hackers realized it also could be used as a real-time 3D scanner to create 3D printable models. A variety of TTU student engineers are using this humble, yet quite functional, sensor as a 3D scanner to do some fun and educational projects. Keep reading if you want to scan someone and turn them into a superhero action figure.

The Kinect has an infrared (IR) camera, which is part of its depth sensor that can stream a real time video projection. But with one more step, it can project those infrared beams at an object and return them to measure the distance to each pixel. This allows you to create a depth map that can be turned into a 3D model.

As professionals, educators, and hobbyists/makers discovered this 3D scanning capability, software quickly emerged to take advantage of this sensor. Many free and low-cost tools reached the market and TTU outlines how they did it.

After you have the Kinect, and it is all set up, you will need the following software programs from Microsoft (3 of 4) and one from Autodesk called Meshmixer to move you from scanning to 3D printing.

You can read more about the project on the TTU Engineering Research and iMakerSpace page.

Instructions on Xbox One Kinect 3D scanning and printing

Scanning instructions

  • Center the person in an area and remove all objects that may interfere with the scan.
  • Have the person stare straight ahead and make as little movement as possible.
  • Open the 3D scan app. There should be a live video from the Kinect on the screen.
  • Optional: adjust the settings of depth, width, and height as needed.
  • Click scan and, while holding the Kinect at chest level, move 360° slowly around the person.
  • At the end of the circle, move the sensor upwards at a tilt to capture the top of the head.
  • When the scan has been completed, click stop, and the scan will process.
    • Other recommendations:
      • Use the timer function if only two are involved.
      • If there is a third person, have them click start and stop manually.
      • The Kinect can work in a dark place, but light will capture more detail.
      • Also, the Kinect cord may not be long enough to go around the person. This can be solved by having the person step over the wire with care.
    • Open the scan to see the result.
    • Take another scan if the scan is not good.
    • Save as an STL file.

Meshmixer Instructions

  • Import the STL scan into Meshmixer.
  • Also, import the incredible body.
  • Slice the head of the Incredible in order to replace it with the scan.
    • This is done by:
      • Click select on the side menu. Then, find a perspective where slicing the head doesn’t affect other areas. Outline the head with the slicer, and clear the selection.
      • (The headless Incredible have been completed and can be loaded already.)
    • If needed, scale the STL scan down by clicking edit, transform and scale.
    • Also in transform, move the file to above the Incredible body.
    • Slice the STL scan to include the head and some of the neck.
    • Move the STL scan to where the Incredible head would be, and scale to have the body proportions balanced.
    • Select both objects, and combine. One of the objects should change color.
    • In the edit panel, make the object solid.
    • Use the sculpt tool to inflate or shrink the intersection of the two files. The bubble smooth tool is also helpful.
    • Once completed, export as an STL file and print.

More Resources on 3D Scanning

In addition to the popular Kinect, there are low-cost alternatives worth a look. Here are three:

The Orbbec Persee ($240)and Astra ($150) are impressive and can be coupled with the low-cost RecFusion software ($99, but has a free trial).

I have tested the Skanect software (free version for non-commercial use), which provided a very easy way to quickly obtain decent 3D scans of nearby objects, including people – but not pets or children because they can’t stay still long enough. Skanect was acquired by Occipital a few years ago and you can use the software with other scanners, such as, the Kinect or, of course, the Structure.

I have also tested the Structure by Occipital ($380) a few years ago and found it useful, but it was at an earlier stage in the product’s development and it didn’t work as well compared to the others. But many people have had great results with it.

The Facility Is Creating A Sustainable Makerspace Model To Aid Student Job Potential

According to the Credit reporting site WalletHub, Washington State’s economy ranked No. 1 in the nation, driven by strong gross domestic product growth, exports, and the percentage of high-tech jobs. Those high tech jobs include careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  Of course, that would mean that advanced science fields, such as materials science and additive manufacturing rank high, as well.

Student education and workforce training programs contribute to that job growth and overall career opportunities. So, it comes as no surprise that Edmonds Community College enthusiastically supported the idea of creating a makerspace for students and the community. The makerspace is called The Facility and is housed in Monroe Hall, which is already a well-equipped materials science lab.

The Facility is different than many college makerspaces, however, because it is a hybrid model that allows student use and also invites the community, residents who are not students, to come and use the space at low cost. As you will hear in this short video, David Voetmann, Makerspace Program Manager of The Facility, explains how the process works for joining and participating in the space.

What is a Makerspace?

Briefly, a makerspace is like a woodshop or metal shop or automotive class that many area residents would remember. A place, as Voetmann says, to share tools and innovation. Except instead of only power saws or welders or impact wrenches, you would have 3D printers, laser cutters, or 5-axis CNC machines – computer-controlled milling machines that cut on multiple angles. In addition, Monroe Hall is unique in that it is home to equipment that can make something out of carbon fiber (materials science) via vacuum bagging and an autoclave, not your usual makerspace gear.

You can check out other TEAMM videos or look at the Materials Education channel on YouTube.

Resources for Starting Your Own Makerspace

Since two of the most popular machines in a makerspace are 3D printers and laser cutters (or laser engravers), it is logical that companies that provide those tools would have good resources.

3D printer manufacturer, Ultimaker, has a number of posts, books, and resources for school teachers, administrators, librarians (public and school), who might be interested to build a makerspace. One is called the Makerspace Bookshelf and the other helpful post is Fablab, makerspace, or hackerspace? –that highlights how to decide which one is right for your situation.

LulzBot, one of the dominant 3D printer brands in education, has a case study on the Loveland CreatorSpace: Come for the Tools, Stay for the People.

FormLabs, a resin-based 3D printer company, published Incentives and Ingredients for Building a Makerspacethat is instructive.

If you have been contemplating a laser cutter, and a variety of other equipment, Epilog Laser, based in Colorado, offers a number of posts and a downloadable guide for lasers in education to help you determine what you need as well as steps to take to get your space up and running. This post (though it presents a slight bias given what they sell) Why Will a Laser be the Most Popular Tool in My Makerspace? presents four reasons why a laser will be a hit in your makerspace, hackerspace, or fab lab.

Laura Fleming, an educator and media specialist, has written two excellent, best-selling books (also mentioned on the Ultimaker site). You can find both of them on her website: Worlds of Making. Both of them are about creating a makerspace in your school. They are also available on Amazon. She offers a steady stream of ideas and maker tips on her Twitter account – @LFlemingEDU.

The study mentioned earlier in the post: WalletHub study: 2018’s Best & Worst State Economies. This article on the Edmonds Community College website gives additional details of how the school intends to use the makerspace: The Facility and the Rapid Proto Lab at Edmonds Community College.

For more information visit The Facility website or email david.voetmann@edcc.edu.

A Day In The Life Of Virtual Reality Workshop Participants

On day one of the 2018 Virtual Reality (VR) Workshop held in Monroe Hall at Edmonds Community College, it was all “real” and “virtual” at the same time. Educators, 14 of them in total, came from as far away as Southern California to learn how to use VR in their classrooms to teach digital manufacturing.

The workshop is the brainchild of Dr. Magesh Chandramouli who started the MANEUVER (Manufacturing Education Using Virtual Environment Resources) project, based at Purdue University. It is focused on developing an affordable VR framework to address the demand for well-trained digital manufacturing (DM) technicians.

The two-day workshop was hosted by the TEAMM project and started out with sessions dedicated to manufacturing and a tour of Monroe Hall (which has served as the home to multiple National Science Foundation grant-funded projects including the National Resource Center for Materials Education – MatEdU).

This amazing building is the 11,000 square foot home for almost $2,000,000 of machines and tools offering a variety you won’t find on very many college campuses. It is also where The Facility, a new type of makerspace exists – that fuses college access and community access.

Here’s more of what took place on day one and day two of the VR Workshop:

  • Demos of Traditional and Digital Technologies
  • Introduction to Virtual Reality
  • Types and Uses (Google Cardboard Build)
  • Terminology
  • Opportunities (Advantages/Disadvantages)
  • Current technology and expected development (HoloLens practice)
  • Unpack and set-up VR equipment (using the Dell Visor)
  • MANEUVER website (We are creating a resource post that we believe you will find useful, stay tuned)
  • Design Opportunities in Virtual Reality
  • Case Studies: VR in a Classroom
  • How is it being used
  • What are the challenges / rewards

On day two, participants focused on a group project planning incorporation of VR into an actual lesson.

Here are photos from the event:

Additional resources:

From their website: “Project MANEUVER (Manufacturing Education Using Virtual Environment Resources) is developing an affordable virtual reality (VR) framework to address the imminent demand for well-trained digital manufacturing (DM) technicians. Over half of the 3.5 million required manufacturing positions in the US are expected to go unfilled due to a “skills gap”. Employment projections show a decline in conventional manufacturing jobs with marked growth in DM jobs.

“This VR instructional framework, targeted at two and four year programs, will not only advance the field of DM, but will also strengthen education by remedying the lack of clearly defined career/educational pathway(s) for entry-level DM technicians.”

AM News originally reported on this workshop: Virtual Reality Workshop For Digital Manufacturing Education.

Berkeley Lab Develops 3D Print Structures Composed Entirely Of Liquids

Just as people have begun to understand and use 3D printing, here comes a new technology: Liquid 3D printing from one of the top government labs. With 13 Nobel prizes, 70 scientists who are members of the National Academy of Sciences (one of the highest honors for a scientist in the U.S.), numerous National Medals of Science under their belt, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) knows a bit about how to adapt and tweak materials properties to get what they want.

Recently, the Berkeley Lab has developed a way to print 3D structures composed entirely of liquids (Full details linked at end of post). There are existing 3D printers that can do this, so, naturally, the Berkeley Lab team modified an existing 3D printer to do what they wanted: inject threads of water into silicone oil. This allowed them to sculpt tubes made of one liquid within another liquid. This YouTube video from the team at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory elegantly demonstrates and explains how they got it to work.

The Berkeley Lab team believes their all-liquid material could be used to construct liquid electronics that power flexible, stretchable devices. If you have seen the new Samsung flexible, foldable phone screen, you have a rough idea of the concept in action.

According to the official post, “the scientists also foresee chemically tuning the tubes and flowing molecules through them, leading to new ways to separate molecules or precisely deliver nanoscale building blocks to under-construction compounds. The researchers have printed threads of water between 10 microns and 1 millimeter in diameter, and in a variety of spiraling and branching shapes up to several meters in length. What’s more, the material can conform to its surroundings and repeatedly change shape.”

Read more details about how the Lab created a nanoparticle “supersoap” – a surfactant that locks the water in place as they create tubes.

* * * * *

If you are an educator interested in other materials science topics, please check out The National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU) with its database of educator-focused curriculum resources.

You may also be interested in the upcoming annual M-STEM event that brings together students, faculty, and business to strengthen understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) principles, especially relating to materials science, and to enhance K-20 technology education integration. Read more about M-STEM 2018 on November 5-6, 2018 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

Materials Scientists Working On Dental Enamel That Could Regenerate

You never know where an opportunity will present itself for a materials science technician. Your local dentist or dental lab may need help in the near future if this research from Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom develops.

Earlier this month, researchers announced they were working on a new way to grow “mineralized” materials that mimic hard tissues – dental enamel or bone.

The study, originally published in Nature Communications, show how new materials can be recreated to look and work like natural dental enamel. The researchers believe that it could help prevent tooth decay and sensitivity and also provide a way to treat those conditions.

According to the paper:

“Enamel, located on the outer part of our teeth, is the hardest tissue in the body and enables our teeth to function for a large part of our lifetime despite biting forces, exposure to acidic foods and drinks and extreme temperatures. This remarkable performance results from its highly organised structure.”

The paper cites “lead author Professor Alvaro Mata, also from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science, who said: ‘A major goal in materials science is to learn from nature to develop useful materials based on the precise control of molecular building-blocks. The key discovery has been the possibility to exploit disordered proteins to control and guide the process of mineralisation at multiple scales. Through this, we have developed a technique to easily grow synthetic materials that emulate such hierarchically organised architecture over large areas and with the capacity to tune their properties.'”

Mimic other hard tissues

As the researchers understand and control how the process of mineralization works, they believe they will be able to mimic other hard tissues. That potential makes it interesting and valuable to other specialties within the medical and dental communities, particularly in regenerative medicine.

An understanding of how materials work is going to be increasingly valuable in our materials research-based world. Whether it is dental enamel, human bones, or carbon fiber, materials science technicians have a bright future.

More resources and information:

The full research paper was published at Nature Communications: ‘Protein disorder-order interplay to guide 1 the growth of hierarchical mineralized structures’. Sherif Elsharkawy, Maisoon Al-Jawad, Maria F. Pantano, Esther Tejeda-Montes, Khushbu Mehta, Hasan Jamal, Shweta Agarwal, Kseniya Shuturminska, Alistair Rice, Nadezda V. Tarakina, Rory M. Wilson, Andy J. Bushby, Matilde Alonso, Jose C. Rodriguez-Cabello, Ettore Barbieri, Armando del Rio Hernández, Molly M. Stevens, Nicola M. Pugno, Paul Anderson, Alvaro Mata.

Details from Queen Mary University of London news post: Scientists develop material that could regenerate dental enamel. The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant (STROFUNSCAFF) and the Marie Curie Integration Grant (BIOMORPH).

An early release of the research was featured in Labiotech.eu and it has a good breakdown of what it looks like and what it means for dentistry and for us as patients: Dental Enamel Biopolymers.

Photo used with permission from Queen Mary University of London. Credit: Alvaro Mata.

If you are interested in other materials science advancements for technician education (and future employment opportunity ideas), check out this post on TEAMM AM News: Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint.

Disney Research Uses Materials Science To Invent Touchscreen Walls With Conductive Paint