BlackBox CAT-1 3D-Scanner Review

The CAT-1 3D-Scanner is a new and interesting complete 3D-scanner from BlackBox. Is it good enough to be my new daily 3D-scanner? Let’s go through the good and the bad in this review!

 

Our CAT-1 3D-Scanner review ties together with the embedded YouTube review above and acts as an extra source of information, pictures and related content such as 3D-models of the scans and much more! Enjoy!

 

An introduction to the desktop 3D-Scanning process

CAT-1 3D-Scanner is a “classic” desktop 3D-scanner that consists of a turntable and the Scanning unit itself.

The scanning unit is a combined projector with to cameras, essentially creating a pair of eyes. The “eyes” or cameras in an angle is what actually let’s the scanner register a depth image, much like your own eyes.

In the scanning unit the projector is located in the center and will project a series of patterns over whatever you’re scanning. Projected light is then registered by the cameras from two angles and some fancy math will calculate a depth image.

On the CAT-1 3D-Scanner the cameras also register color over the depth image, generating a colored depth-map.

Creating a depth image is great, but adding more of them together is the whole point. Doing that automatically with precision is why the CAT-1 3D-Scanner have a turntable.

By calculating the rotation for each depth image, you can end up taking several scans around the object and end up with a full coverage, a full 3D-scan.

A extra good feature of the CAT-1 3D-Scanner is the ability to rotate your object for each 360-spin so you can add angles and cover otherwise hidden areas.

 

CAT-1 3D-Scanner Specifications

Now that the process is explained briefly, I think we should have a look at the specs. It’s important to know what type of objects you can scan with the CAT-1 3D-Scanner and the specifications is our first stop.

  • Maximum scanning size (Turntable-volume): 220x220x210mm
  • Maximum scanning volume (Freescan): 740x740x740mm
  • Scanning mode: Automatic Turntable, Freescan (with markers)
  • Scanning precision /per frame): 0,1mm
  • Mesh resolution: Up to 0.17mm
  • Light source: White light projector
  • Turntable scan time: Down to 2,5 minutes
  • Scannings time (per frame): 8 seconds
  • Texture scanning: 24bit RGB
  • Turntable size: 240mm diameter
  • Formats: STL,ASC,OBJ,PLY,VTX,OFF

Computer Hardware Specifications: Windows7 or above, 64-bit operating system, Intel
standard voltage CPU, RAM 4G or above, at least one USB free.

 

 

What’s included with the scanner?

With the CAT-1 3D-Scanner you get everything you need to get going. The scanner, calibration plate, 100-240V power supply (with interchangeable cable for regions).

You also get a decent amount of markers to use in the Freescan mode but I haven’t seen where you can buy more of those yet.

What’s extra cute is that a small toy is included to get you started with a good object to scan. I put my dinosaur on the CAT-1 3D-Scanner and ran my first few scans with it to learn the software. It really did well on such a small object!  Check it out (you can spin it around)

The dinosaur is only around 150mm long with quite a few small details I think it performed really well. For this price point, the automatic scan works out very well!

 

How to get a good scan with CAT-1 3D-Scanner

Running through a ton of objects It’s pretty clear that you still need to consider a few things before putting the object on the scanner.

The first is object appearance. You really can’t scan dark/black objects with the CAT-1 3D-Scanner. Matte surfaces, dark clothes/fabrics, dark plastics and dark metals are practicly impossible.

This dark case was actually too dark since the projector couldn’t manage to create a good contrast on the lines that the camera sensors needs to see.

CAT-1 3D-Scanner Freescan Dark Case

 

Since it’s so important for the projector to create clear lines for the cameras to pick up, a few others objects are also impossible or incredible hard to scan. Among those are reflective surfaces (like shiny plastics or metals), transparent objects or furry/fuzzy things.

I really wish the projector was stronger, or that you could have longer exposure times on the cameras than the pre-defined range of “1-5″… Maybe in a future update?

There is of course a solution to most of the problems above, and that is contrast spray/developer spray. This puts down a white matte surface on your object so they become easier to scan. Everything white is usually very easy to scan, unless it’s shiny.

This GP Battery charger really shows how good a scan can get (mesh/precision -wise)

 

3D Data from the CAT-1 3D-Scanner

As of today, 3D-scanning, no matter what budget you have more or less only exports a triangulated mesh. Which in turn is generated from a point cloud.

CAT-1 3D-Scanner also uses point clouds in it’s scanning-process to create depth images which are reconstructed to a triangulated mesh when you end the scanning.

my tip is to always save the point cloud (or sharding points) as they can be used later to generate triangulated meshes in other resolutions. Once you choose a resolution (before scanning) with the CAT-1 3D-Scanner, you’re stuck with that.

The raw points is a great way to back up data in case you need it later.

Reconstructing the mesh in CAT-1 software is simple. Just a click! With that you’re ready to export the triangulated mesh (as STL for example) unless you want to fill some holes or remove extra parts.

Post-processing tools are quite limited, so I recommend using Autodesk Meshmixer to fix any issues with holes, noise or unwanted items in your 3D scan.

If you scanned using texture (or as they call it, VenaState ?!) you need to click on the button to your far right (currently only Chinese letters) to map the colors to the model.

Then you can export a OBJ-file and get the texture and mtl-file.

 

3D scanning Textures with CAT-1 3D-Scanner

The textures are a fun addition to the CAT-1 3D-Scanner, but not really something I’d rely on to do creative work for ads/movies. The colors are great enough for “background” items or as a reference when re-modelling something.

If you’re scanning something and sending it away to a CAD-designer a smart thing is to draw on the object and mark areas to remove/enhance and so on. Great for communication!

If you want you can of course scan your creations and share 3D-models on Facebook! You can find my guide on Facebook 3D posts here.

CAT-1 3D-Scanner Texture

The raw texture above is a 4096x4096px large file. As you can see the texture is quite literally the different angles I scanned the object in… It sure does work, but not the best to work with if you want to do any changes.

I’ve played around in Photoshop a bit and changing color balance, color temperature is OK, but since there is a lot of overlapping it’s hard to work on one area. For that you’d have to remap the UVs and that’s a complex story of itself.

 

3D Print Tech Design review conclusion

I think the CAT-1 3D-Scanner is a good budget scanner, and for it’s price it’s really does scan great quality as long as the object is suitable.

The automation is great and you actually end up with a good enough result for reverse engineering and measuring on!

I would have hoped for a better tripod as it’s very unstable, specially for Freescan of objects. Speaking of Freescan, that’s a great tool to bring out when your object won’t fit on the turntable.

The price of around 1000 usd is definitely OK specially considering you’re getting turntable scans with usable resolution. I wish the price could come down a bit, as the software is the complex part here and it would need a update quite soon.

 

Where to buy:

At Amazon

At Gearbest

At Manufacturer

 

Additional Content

In the CAT-1 3D-Scanner review video posted above I talked about reverse engineering the wall section. I got that video out on YouTube now and will of course embedded it here for your convenience.

There’s obviously great videos happening on this YouTube-channel so make sure you subscribe!

About The Author
- 3D-visionary enthusiast exploring the world of 3D-printing. With 12+ years of 3D experience from visualization, VFX and CAD-design and the industry itself, I tend to find interest and ideas from the world around me.

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