Public Release: 

3D scanner gives the full picture

CSIRO Australia

Displaying jewellery and other small products for sale over the Internet or managing museum collections of plant or animal specimens could be revolutionised by new CSIRO technology for scanning and displaying 3D objects.

The CSIRO scanning technology will allow users to scan small objects and obtain a digital image file which is three-dimensional, and so gives extra information about the object's surface shape and texture. The file could be emailed to a friend, put on a website, published in a print catalogue, or displayed in an art gallery.

"We live in a three-dimensional world. Yet the images we see in magazines and on websites are just two-dimensional. They literally give us only part of the picture," says Anna McDonald, a Commercial Analyst at CSIRO.

Flatbed scanners are commonplace in many home and office environments, representing the third largest segment of the PC peripherals market. But they can presently only work in two dimensions. Flat objects such as photos, house plans, and letters are 'scanned' and displayed as a two-dimensional digital image file.

The new CSIRO scanning technology generates a three-dimensional image, but one which doesn't require special glasses or other equipment to view.

"There are 3D scanners available now but they tend to be large and expensive, requiring technical lighting and camera set-ups. They are used in very specialised industrial applications to record shapes for computer animation, model the exteriors of vehicles and so on," Ms McDonald says.

The CSIRO 3D scanning technology is unique in that it could be easily incorporated into designs of new mass market flatbed scanners, fax machines or photocopiers, making 3D scanning accessible to the home and office user.

"Instead of 3D scanners just being the lumbering pieces of equipment that they are now", says Ms McDonald, "you could fit one of these on your desk".

"They would also be relatively inexpensive - costing only a small premium over conventional scanning technologies, rather than the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars you'd pay for existing 3D scanners", she said.

CSIRO is approaching manufacturers of imaging and office equipment to discuss licencing and sale of the technology. There have already been enquiries from overseas.

More information about the 3D scanning technology can be found on the web at


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