I just got this question as a reply to my Facebook Page:
It’s an interesting one, and the reply I wrote was so long that I decided to put it up here so it’s available for everyone with that wants to start 3D Scanning — and 3D Printing — people on a budget:
Occipital Structure Sensor
Let’s start with the Structure Sensor, because that’s the one that I have most experience with. In fact, I think I scanned about 100 people with it in the last couple of months, both busts and full body. It’s is wireless and has great standalone iPad apps and the option to scan wirelessly to a Mac or PC with Skanect (I’m currently beta testing a new version of that, which adds great improvements for body scanning!). That last feature means you can make scans that a tablet can’t handle, like large objects and rooms.
For body scanning in combination with 3D printing, you should read the part about the payed Business Version of itSeez3D, which adds a few handy—fully automated—features specifically for 3D printing selfies. The one-click “hollowing” procedure saves a lot of money on 3D printing.
There are currently two versions of Intel’s RealSense: The RealSense R200 (world-facing) sensor is a bit older, but that one works with the Windows Tablet version of itSeez3D (I havent tested that combination, but I do know it currently only has body scanning capabilities — no object scanning).
The latest one is the RealSense SR300 (which is actually a user-facing sensor, but has enough range for body scanning) and that one works with the Sense for RealSense by 3D Systems, which I reviewed in my XYZ Scanner Review. The software is great, but that XYZ hardware has the older, discontinued RealSense F200 which I wouldn’t currently recommend.
Keep in mind though, that strictly speaking the RealSense SDKs from Intel are meant for software development purposes. Read the details on the product pages regarding their restrictions and judge them for your own situation.
Alternatively, you can also consider the new Next Generation Sense ($349) by 3D Systems, which is basically a RealSense SR300, but in a more convenient hand-held form factor for 3D Scanning. And you can officially use that one for every (commercial) purpose you like. Just be sure that you’re buying the “Next Generation” or “2nd Generation” version, because it’s a lot better suited for Full Color Body Scanning the original 1st generation Sense I tested a while ago due to the terrible 320 x 240 RGB resolution.
Microsoft previously sold a Kinect for Windows, but you can still get a Kinect for XBOX One combined with the Kinect for Windows Adapter to get the same results. Microsoft has its own 3D Scan Windows App, but the Kinect also works perfectly with the more feature-rich Skanect software I mentioned earlier (under Windows). As you can see in the image it’s the least portable of the 3 sensors—and the adapter isn’t even pictured. It is, however, widely supported by many experimental 3D — and even 4D — capturing applications.
Personally, for Body Scanning, I find it a lot easier to walk around with a Tablet than with a laptop. It’s a lot lighter and it makes it easier to scan at certain angles, like the top of someones head. It’s also more portable.
For the Structure Sensor, be sure you have a compatible iPad and order the right bracket.
The RealSense SR300 SDK can be attached to a laptop screen facing backwards, making it fairly comfortable to scan with. You can also just hold the sensor in on hand and your laptop in the other if you need to walk around a person. The same is true for the Kinect, which is the lease portable of the 3. Both the SR300 and the Kinect have a standard tripod thread though, so you could attach them to a cheap hand grip. Mounting them on an actual tripod isn’t handy for scanning people, since you need to be able to scan at different angles and heights to cover the whole surface.
One thing to note is that the RealSense SR300 requires a Windows computer with a recent 6th generation Intel processor. At least on paper, because why wouldn’t Intel advice their latest chip? I do have a PC with an Intel i5-6600K, but I will also test if it works with my Macbook Pro running Windows through Boot Camp on an Intel i7-3720QM processor. The Kinect’s system requirements are not that strict processor-wise, but still require a fast dual-core chip.
Texture Quality & 3D Printing
Keep in mind that the Structure Sensor uses the iPad’s RGB camera for capturing color textures, so that quality depends on the iPad. An iPad Pro—especially the 9.7-inch version with 12 megapixels—should result in awesome textures. The RealSense R200, SR300 and Kinect have their own RGB camera with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (keep in mind that the discontinued RealSense F200 only has a 640 x 480 RGB resolution).
That being said, the color resolution of 3D Prints made with Full Color Sandstone is pretty low. The texture quality of the scans I made with the Structure Sensor and my iPad mini’s not-so-great-camera are actually sufficient enough for printing busts up to 10-15 cm tall. The HD resolutions of the R200, SR300 and Kinect are also sufficient for small-scale Sandstone prints.
For the actual 3D Printing in Full Color Sandstone, there are many options. I ordered mine online at Shapeways but you can also try similar services like i.materialize — or you can find a local 3D Printing Service that can print in Full Color through 3D Hubs.
Which one should you buy?
Well, they’re all comparable sensors—for the purpose of entry-level 3D Body Scanning, at least. So my advise is budget-driven: if you already have a supported iPad (even an old iPad mini 2 does the job—I use that one), I would recommend the Structure Sensor. It really is “Elegant 3D Scanning” as Occipital advertises it.
But if you don’t have an iPad, but do already have a good, recent Windows Laptop or Windows Tablet like a Surface Pro, one of the the current RealSense SDKs or 3D Systems’ Next Generation Sense are cheaper option.
But maybe you’re lucky and know someone that has an XBOX One with a Kinect that’s catching dust (most of them are and you can also find them on eBay). Then you just have to buy the Windows Adapter, making your first steps into 3D scanning very affordable.
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