Snowflake: A Cloud 3D Scanner

2014 Entrepreneurial Award

The 2014 Entrepreneurial Award was presented to Cloud 3D Scanner team members Steve Hwang, Hyunsung Kim, Even Sapienza, Jason Shum, and Alex Wiles
George Matthews of Microsoft acted as the team client

ECE Day

From left to right: Associate Professor of the Practice Alan Pisano, Alex Wiles, Hyunsung Kim, Jason Shum, Evan Sapienza, Steve Hwang, and ECE Department Chair Professor David Castañón. Photo by Chitose Suzuki for Boston University Photography.

The 3D printing industry has undergone significant changes over the last three decades, and more are projected to come. In 1984 Charles Hull, the later co-founder of 3D Systems, invented the first 3D printer. Around 22 years later, in 2008, Shapeways launched a printer that provided inexpensive 3D productions.

ECE Day

Photo by Chitose Suzuki for Boston University Photography.

Steve Hwang, Hyunsung Kim, Evan Sapienza, Jason Shum, and Alex Wiles (ECE ’14) have noticed an obstacle in the 3D printing marketplace, “most of the software that are needed to create a printable 3D image are costly.” The team continued to explain that the software “require a high-end PC for processing power, and do not provide an intuitive interface for the user.” Overall, the team determined that the cost and complexity in 3D printing made manufacturing unreachable for a large population of people.

George Matthews, Program Manager 2 at Microsoft, acted as the client to the team’s senior design project. He requested the team develop a device to benefit the growing 3D marketplace, and gave them a list of requirements for their project. Every two-to-three weeks throughout the school year, Matthews met with the group to provide guidance, which team member Hyunsung Kim described as “very helpful.”

The team’s final production was called the “Snowflake.” It is a tool to improve the accessibility of 3D production by combining commonly used hardware and Cloud sharing technology.

ECE Day

Photo by Chitose Suzuki for Boston University Photography.

The snowflake utilizes software that integrates Microsoft Kinect and Windows Azure to scan, process, and create a standard 3D printable file for use with consumer grade 3D printers. Directions on how to operate the software are easy to follow. The user simply turns on the Kinect sensor, opens the Snowflake software, and then repeatedly scans the desired 3D print object at different angles. Next, the user uploads the scanned files and reviews the compilation of scanned images. In the last step, the user sends the file to print. The software also connects the user to other snowflake users on the cloud.

The team, whose project earned them the 2014 Entrepreneurial Award, looks forward to continuing work on the Cloud 3D scanner. Team member Alex Wiles noted that, “some of the judges showed interest in using our product for applications that we had not considered.” He continued, “With some clean up and refactoring, the cloud service we built for 3D processing could become an interesting business.”