Scan In a Box, an affordable yet professional desktop 3D scanner by Open Technologies
Today, we‘re testing the Open Technologies Scan In a Box. We aim to give a fair evaluation of this 3D scanner through the 3D scanning of standard objects. Throughout this 3D scanner review, we will follow our standardized protocol to evaluate the performance of this product.
First of all, Scan In a Box is a new brand created by Open Technologies, an industrial 3D scanner manufacturer based in Italy. Founded in 2001, Open Technologies introduced their very first scanner in 2005, the Optical RevEng LE.
Their lineup also includes:
- the CRONOS3D: a professional, user-friendly 3D scanning system
- the AURUM3D: a professional 3D scanning system created specifically to scan small details and complex shapes
- the STONE400: a high-definition, professional 3D copy system specific for the marble-working sector
Open Technologies also offers an interesting collection of dental 3D scanners: eaSy, smaRt and deluXe.
Open Technologies’ 3D scanners use structured light technology, which is basically a light pattern originating from a projector and that is cast on a 3D surface. The 3D scanner software can calculate the 3D surface’s topology and create a 3D mesh.
Scan In a Box, a.k.a SIAB, was introduced in early 2016. By starting at €2,390 (excluding VAT and delivery), Scan In a Box tackles the entry-level professional 3D scanner market.
|Max resolution||0.08 mm0.00315 in|
|Weight||3 kg6.61 lb|
Approximate starting prices based on supplier-provided information and public data. Prices may vary over time and do not include additional products or services (taxes, shipping, accessories, training, installation, …).
|$ 2,6292 390 €2,037 £276,920 ¥|
It is very interesting to point out the similarities between the products in this price range. They are all compatible with an optional automatic turntable and feature the same components: a small and compact video projector, two USB cameras, a robust aluminum frame, and a tripod.
Objects used for test 3D scans:
- a Mount Fuji plush
- a soap dispenser
- a baguette (bread)
- a sheep plush
- The excellent price-to-performance ratio for meshes
- Manufacturing quality
- Calibration process
- Requires a controlled environment to reach peak performance
- Very low texture quality
Unboxing: simple packaging, with a separate box for the ATT
We received the product very well packaged in a shipping cardboard box. The size of it is pretty impressive. Inside are two separate packaging boxes, one for the 3D scanner itself and another for the ATT.
We started by opening the 3D scanner package and quickly found the calibration plate and starting guide under a layer of styrofoam. The large calibration plate (30 x 45 cm) offers three different patterns to handle all types of objects and standoff distance/field of view. It is made from plastic-coated acrylic covered with adhesive plastic on both sides, and it is quite heavy too.
Under this layer are the 3D scanner, the tripod, the connectivity cables and power cords.
The 3D scanner is composed of an ASUS S1 200 lumens video projector and two USB cameras that are robustly fixed on a thick (and heavy) aluminum rail. Under the rail is a compatible camera screw slot for connecting to the quality tripod.
Open Technologies Scan In a Box instruction manual
The dense Scan In a Box 3D scanner instruction manual is printed on both sides of a thick, plastified paper of very large dimensions (30 x 45 cm). Nice drawings illustrate the manual but the font is quite small. This format is neither practical nor easy to understand.
All of the most essential information is available, but the first impression is a complex mess– and it does not get better even after a few uses. There is the same confusion when dealing with the ATT instruction manual. The ATT manual does not clearly explain if the instructions are added to the 3D scanner manual, or if they should be understood independently. At times, we were a bit lost due to unclear instructions that could have been formulated more straightforwardly.
In the end, it would have been better to describe in a few words how the 3D scanner and the ATT work together and what the software’s main functions are.
Thankfully, the online documentation covers all of the software’s functionalities and gives a lot of details regarding the 3D scanner’s parts, functions, and calibration procedure. We know that professional 3D scanners are complex pieces of hardware and that their software is generally not very user-friendly. However, more emphasis on ease-of-use and discoverability would’ve been a great plus.
All of the Open Technologies Scan In a Box accessories are in the first cardboard box. They include:
- the instruction manual,
- connectivity cables (2 USB and one HDMI),
- the power cord,
- a USB stick for software installation,
- the calibration plate (along with its plastic supports),
- and the tripod with its protective cover.
Also included is a flexible measuring tape and a very practical cable sheath to discipline all of those wires. See before and after pictures in the “Getting Started” section.
The calibration panel is large and heavy, and the frail acrylic support barely stands its weight, with the risk of toppling down while performing the calibration. Except for this part, everything appears to be of good to great quality.
Overview and setup
The Open Technologies IDEA software is available in its 1.1 version, directly available on the included 8Gb USB stick. For this test, we used a Lenovo laptop fitted with a decent GPU, an Nvidia Quadro M2000M 4096 Mb, a Solid State Drive, 16 Gb of RAM, and an Intel Core i7-6820HQ @ 2.70 GHz.
The very first step requires installing the software and the USB drivers from the USB stick. This might tamper with the ability of Open Technologies to always deliver the latest version of IDEA software in the future, but in our case, everything went smoothly.
In case of a new IDEA release, Open Technologies offers the latest version to all their users, free of charge and directly available for download on their website. Note that the software installer is not connected with the software license and it is always possible to get a free 30 days trial in case you want to give it a try. The whole software installation took us less than 10 minutes, drivers included.
Once IDEA is launched, it is recommended to install the hardware to properly connect the 3D scanner to the computer. We also strongly recommend taking a look at the IDEA software online full manual.
The Open Technologies Scan In a Box 3D scanner is very well made and assembled. The two USB cameras are attached to a robust aluminum rail by thick squares screwed into position. The cameras themselves exude quality, with their plastic covers and tiny configuration screws to adjust focus and aperture.
Between the two cameras is the ASUS video projector. This video projector features a 6,000 mAh battery power bank. This offers some autonomy if there are no AC outlets nearby. The projector uses LED DLP technology and also features a small speaker for sound.
The ATT is a solid metal cylinder with a power button and two connectivity slots: one for power (to plug into any AC outlet) and one for a standard USB cable.
Both the 3D scanner and the ATT require to be connected to a computer to work. The Open Technologies Scan In a Box 3D scanner itself uses 2 USB ports for the cameras, 1 HDMI port for the video projector, and an AC outlet (optional, because the video projector and can temporarily work autonomously thanks to its internal battery). The ATT requires one USB port and its own AC outlet. Furthermore, the IDEA software requires the authentication USB stick to be connected to provide its full functionalities, but we noticed that meshing and editing tasks are still available without it.
That’s a total of 6 cables, requiring a computer with at least 4 USB ports. Even if solutions exist (cable sheath and use of a USB hub), it may make the installation of the 3D scanner a bit cumbersome and complex.
Most of the time required to assemble the Scan In a Box is linked to the cable connection and ordering. Also, there are two separate calibration processes, one for general uses and one for ATT. To us, the calibration steps are neither easy nor intuitive.
Note that every SIAB 3D scanner is always tested and pre-calibrated on the medium FoV (250 mm) before the delivery, so if you intend to use this most popular preset you will save a lot of time and effort. In this case, there is no need to change the optical setup neither to do the calibration. Else, read our step-by-step procedure below.
First, the camera’s aperture and focus require adjusting. This step alone takes a few minutes with patience and precision. Then, the 3D scanner must be precisely aligned with the calibration panel and turned around step by step (9 total). If it does not work, users must repeat this step all over again. Open Technologies provides a useful video to help with this calibration process.
Note: the calibration panel is heavy, cumbersome and sits on a plastic square that is comparably too small/weak to handle the panel’s weight.
The ATT calibration takes less time. The main constraint is anticipating the maximum bounding box in which the object will stay when 3D scanned.
Once the calibration is performed, keeping the same conditions is recommended (lighting, distance, etc.). Indeed, changing the scan area and/or stand-off distance implicates realigning both cameras.
Steps to start 3D scanning with the Open Technologies Scan In a Box and its ATT:
- Assembling the 3D scanner set on the tripod.
- Installing the IDEA software and drivers on a computer from the USB stick.
- Plugging in the two USB cables between the cameras and the computer.
- Connecting the HDMI cable between the video projector and the computer.
- Plugging in both power cables to the video projector and to the ATT.
- Configuring the computer display for the video projector.
- Calibrating the 3D scanner and the ATT.
The ATT calibration must be done every time either the ATT or the 3D scanner is moved.
The IDEA software feels professional with a lot of little icons and different sections. It is easy to use once the main sections and interactions have been identified, but getting to know the right workflow for individual needs is complex.
The preview option allows us to see what the cameras are focusing on, but the 3D scanning zone is quite restricted. It is necessary to correctly align the 3D scanner and the object. Even with the help of the SIAB YouTube video, it is quite a difficult thing to do. The inclination and distance of the 3D scanner must simultaneously be adjusted, all while handling the tripod.
After clicking on the camera icon, the Scan In a Box initiates a 3D scan (with textures), creating a colored range image (quite similar to a dot cloud from an end-user perspective). Adding more 3D Scans does not necessarily mean increasing the quality of the final result. We recommend catching several acquisitions that are enough to cover all the details of the 3D scanned object.
However there is no specific suggested number, it depends on the complexity of the objects. Anyway, we found out that 3 to 4 captures (from different object’s orientation) on an 18° degree step gives good results for full 360° 3D scans. It is possible to generate a 3D mesh once there is a sufficient amount of range images to perform their alignment.
The range image alignment is probably one of the most painful steps. The automatic function works poorly, and the system needs to be fed with correct reference points (three for a proper triangulation and alignment) before being of any use. This is since there is actually no “automatic alignment” function in SIAB.
The alignment operation is manual and you will need to find the three points reference for each. However, those points can be defined roughly and give satisfying results. The ‘automatic alignment” will be offered in the upcoming SIAB-FX 3D scanner product and will be called “direct alignment”,
It took us some time to properly understand how to classify and multi-select the different range images. Almost 3-4 groups of dozens of range images are needed to obtain a fully detailed 3D mesh. However, after a bit of practice, it became easier.
After range images alignment comes 3D mesh generation. This consists of automatically linking each dot with polygon faces (here, triangles) and edges.
Four different reconstruction profiles are available. Below are the descriptions from the Open Technologies website.
Technical object 3D scan
“Profile made to maintain a high level of detail with a tolerance of 0.035mm. The expected resulting mesh will be composed of approximately 500 000 triangles.”
Design object 3D scan
“Similar profile to Technical object, except it applies a stronger smoothing with a higher tolerance.”
Small Artistic object 3D scan
“This profile has a very high detail with a small tolerance (0,010mm). It applies light smoothing and automatically fills the smallest holes. It has no limits in the number of the triangle and therefore does not applies an automatic decimation. These profiles achieve the higher detail level and precision on the mesh.”
Sculpture object 3D scan
“This mesh generation profile has a medium tolerance of 0.025mm and keeps a high level of details. The default settings of the Sculpture profile do not apply an automatic mesh decimation.”
All of the parameters can be modified and fine-tuned to obtain the best results, and the predefined profiles are of great help. Due to the difficulty of choosing the right profile for new users, and since we required constant parameters for benchmarking purposes, we did all of our testings with the Design object profile.
Mesh generation is a time-consuming process that can take up to 10 minutes, and it takes a toll on the computer resources. We found that it was better to perform all of the capture steps first and to clean well the unnecessary data before going into mesh generation and settings.
The software offers a lot of different options such as hole-filling and mesh decimation for extra finishing. The functions work well but are slow and extremely demanding for the computer. We experienced a few IDEA software crashes, mainly caused by the sheer size of our first, non-optimized projects. During our testing experience, the completion indicator often gave false estimations and had a weird tendency of freezing around 41%.
Not many texture options in the IDEA software, but in our opinion, the Scan In a Box isn’t the best at capturing colors anyways.
Note: for this test our lab was unavailable, so testing conditions weren’t optimal. This may explain some of the difficulties that we faced.
The 3D scanning process goes smoothly and almost no warm-up time is necessary a good competitive advantage. However, it still requires caution when positioning the test object onto the ATT. The main challenge is to get the stand-off distance right since both cameras and the video projector must focus on the same zone.
The SIAB performs a capture at each step of the ATT. The more steps it performs, the more dots there are. This exponentially increases the complexity of re-alignment and mesh generation. Therefore we don’t recommend taking too many captures– it is best to have a few quality 3D scans rather than many captures of poor quality.
The 3D scanner is very sensitive to its environment, especially to external lighting. Consequently, the best conditions are smooth, uniform lighting, and adequate brightness control for the cameras. Also, we found that color capture was not very efficient, therefore we chose to focus on geometry acquisition.
In our opinion, this 3D scanner isn’t a good fit for an office environment. We strongly recommend SIAB users find a dedicated space offering uniform lighting and being absent of vibrations and external interferences.
The SIAB acquires colors automatically in every scan, yet the .STL file format for mesh exportation doesn’t include them. To automatically include the textures, .OBJ or .PLY file formats must be used.
The software isn’t currently capable of exporting the colors separately. However, it will be possible in the next hardware/software version SIAB-FX and IDEA. The new version will also allow to:
- export atlas and triangular map texture,
- convert from mesh to range images,
- and export RGB point clouds from mesh.
In any case, it is highly recommended to equalize the value of black and white before starting to 3D scan, if the result expects to be optimized for the colors. For very dark/black objects there is a dedicated function in IDEA to ease the capture (by selecting the very dark icon and adjusting the exposure in the software).
3D scan results
The Open Technologies Scan In A Box (like most 3D scanners) does not work well on black smooth surfaces. We got the bests results with uniform, white-ish models. We chose the models based on their geometries and textures to benchmark a variety of different use cases.
1. Mount fuji plush
This cute Mount Fuji plush (Fuji-san for our Japanese readers) was an interesting object to 3D scan. It is highly detailed with difficult material and challenging details, in addition to small hanging parts. The mesh result is very satisfying with a nice fluffy texture, although the colors are passable.
2. Hand soap dispenser
This is a 20-cm-tall hand soap dispenser. It is very interesting because of its simple yet detailed geometry. Furthermore, its ivory color and black label combination make it difficult to 3D scan and were a great benchmark to evaluate the hole-fixing function of the software. The result is a great, detailed range image which allowed to creation of a nice mesh. However, we chose to discard the textures as they weren’t relevant.
3. Bread loaf – baguette bread
As French people, we always have a baguette nearby. We used this because of the complex structure of the bread and its inside. This 3D scan required us to perform several 360° captures to compose the final 3D mesh. This object has a wide range of colors from almost-black crust to the white of the flour. As a result, we did not obtain great texture. The geometry is of good quality with a lot of details.
4. Sheep plush
This sheep plush is an interesting object to 3D scan. It has many challenging details and a difficult material to capture. Furthermore, it is quite large (30 cm long) hence requiring multiple repositionings to obtain a complete 360° 3D scan. The end result is nice, although the capture of the floating scarf did not work. The cleaning and remeshing tools did a great job as it was possible to simply close and create the mesh manifold in just a few clicks.
Priced at €2,390 (without VAT and shipping), the Open Technologies Scan In a Box offers a very attractive value for professionals looking for an affordable yet powerful 3D scanner. The ATT (turntable) is available for €890, making it slightly expensive but we strongly recommend getting both.
On the performance side, the Open Technologies Scan In a Box 3D scanner is capable of producing very high-quality meshes. Indeed it offers precision and detail, right on for most use cases (especially reverse engineering studies).
On the downside, textures are blurry, black colors are not captured and the dedicated software tools are limited. Note that texture acquisition is indeed influenced by the light of the environment (not ideal during our test). We must also add that in our case, setting up the scanner was a bit time-consuming.
It is very difficult to find 3D scanners with a fully optimized user experience, and the Open Technologies Scan In A Box makes no exception. Indeed there is still a long way to go to make the 3D scanning process simple, intuitive, and suited for beginners.
However, for professionals (engineers, designers, artists, museum conservationists, dentists…) who do not need a good texture or color capture, the Open Technologies Scan In a Box is a great and affordable product with very few competitors.
In conclusion, for only €2,390, there are not many alternatives to the Open Technologies Scan In a Box 3D scanner. The RangeVision Smart is a very interesting alternative, and its latest software evolutions sound very promising. The DAVID SLS line is powerful and also more expensive, but won’t offer much better performance. Their user experience is also quite complex.
Finally, its biggest competitor might be the Shining 3D EinScan-SP, although it does not aim for the same market segment and is more suited for non-professional consumers.