Photofly project: iPhone stand

Selecting points in Photofly

An attempt at 3D scanning a small object (for 3D printing) with Photofly

Selecting points in Photofly

The release of Autodesk‘s Project PhotoFly 2.0 software was covered by David last week, so I thought I’d try using it to capture a small model today.

I should state up front that the project was unsuccessful… But it was still interesting to go through the process and see what happened.

After trying a few different objects including a toothpick holder and a batarang, I had the most luck with this mini iPhone stand that I’d printed last year:

Mini iPhone stand

Creating a mesh requires a ton of photos. It’s not fun at all, but in order for the software to recognize enough similarities that it can generate a 3D model, you need to move around an object and snap a picture every 5 degrees. Definitely at least 50-60 photos:

That is a lot of photos.

Photofly takes the photos up to the cloud and processes them there. It’s faster than you could do on your home computer, but count on seeing this screen a fair bit:

Photofly processing photos

There’s an option to have Photofly exit and send an email when processing is complete, but the projects I tried to do that with are in limbo now so just stay in the app and wait. When it’s done, you’ll see a low-quality preview mesh like this:

Low-quality mesh

It looks a little weird, but okay, good enough to click the Mesh Quality button and choose “high”.


Oh dear. The paper I used as a backdrop appears to have become cake frosting. At this point I exported the model to .obj format for cleanup in Blender. I made some progress…

Deleting portions in Blender

… but as you can see, it’s never really going to be accurate. There are selection tools for excluding bits in Photofly itself, but with portions of the model obscured by frosting in the first place there’s not much to be done.

If you want to make a precision copy of something, it might be better to just bust out some calipers and OpenSCAD. However, if you’re willing to put in the time, copies of irregular items like sculptures should be fun and reasonably practical.

I think I’d like to try again using dino-girl‘s trusty Beethoven bust and produce a series of copies of copies to see what sort of generational loss occurs with repeated printing and scanning.

If you’ve played around with Photofly yourself, share your project in the comments below.

Derek Quenneville is a 3D printing evangelist who posts weekly on the Ponoko blog. Follow him on Twitter @techknight.

I’ve tried it, too, what a pain in the rectum!
To think a $5 Laser, a lowly webcam, and David 3D scan
will produce lots better results in a fraction of the time, nope, may be good for buildings, and at that, for people with a lot of spare time, not for us mere mortals.

No way a primitive laser scanner will produce better results. And what if your object is not small and not in the darkness? Photofly is photobased and is free (come on, david laserscanner costs money, not five bucks), it can fetch as good results as my3dscanner or alike (ARC3D) on the go. See as an example.

I’ve had nothing but great results from photofly. Even one that I did quickly (less than ten minutes to take the pictures, probably closer to five) turned out very well!
I’m very impressed by it!

Steve: Do you have some photos you can share? I’d love to see what kind of results you’re getting.


We’ve still got some issues with iPhone/smartphone/tablet cameras, issues that are being fixed. The next version of Photofly will handle these devices MUCH better !

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