Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

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Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby vitorio » 25 Nov 2010, 02:38

So, quoting my hello post, I've finally assembled this scanner. (It's still setting, so I won't be trying it until later.)

vitorio wrote:Hi, all, I'm here because there's a bunch of out-of-copyright design books that I'd like to liberate. :)

I didn't see anyone here talking about it, so I ordered this book scanning platform to try it out and get my feet wet in this whole business: http://www.ponoko.com/design-your-own/p ... m-kit-3150

It's an all-acrylic scanning platform, laser-cut and sold through Ponoko, an on-demand fabrication service, for $70. It's hard to tell in the photos, but it does come with a secondary platen to hold the pages open with, and they recommend photographing in a dark room with a single light source above the book, and a curtain above the camera to reduce reflections.

Here's what it looks like before I take all the paper off the acrylic and glue it together: http://vi.to/scan1 (housecat for scale)

I was hoping it'd work without glue, so I could transport it flat and assemble it on site, but some of the parts are too small for that. Still, all acrylic means it's light, at least. Assembles very quickly. I picked up some silicone something-or-other at Home Depot and I'll assemble it properly soon.

There's only a platform for a single camera, and there's no built-in lighting, and I don't know the quality of the acrylic, but I'll post the results in the right forum once I get it put together and I try it out.

I'm kinda holding out for the bklib kit (bookliberator.org), as that seems to be a lot more compact than the usual designs here, and I'd rather buy a kit than build something from scratch (I'm not really interested in the build, I'm interested in the digitization), but I may do it myself if they take much longer!


The assembly took me 2-2.5 hours. First time assembling anything made from acrylic. I originally tried some GE 100% Silicone Sealant, which was all Home Depot had in their acrylic section, but it became quickly obvious that it was inappropriate. There are a few plastics places in the area, so I picked up a tube of IPS Weld-on #16 solvent cement for acrylic.

If I had to do it again, I'd probably go for the can with the syringe applicator; I got quite a bit on my fingers. In-progress:

inprogress.jpg
In progress
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Assembling the platform is a little tricky, mostly around the platens, everything interlocks and wasn't always obvious (as a novice) where exactly the parts would sit against each other.

I've also decided I don't like interlocking parts; I'd like something that bolts together. The tolerances on the acrylic are just too tight, and one part, which holds the platens together, broke:

broken.jpg
Broken acrylic
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Finally, here it is as the adhesive sets:

setting.jpg
Setting
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I'm not entirely sure it'll be terrible structurally robust, but we'll find out. I'll keep this thread updated as I try it out.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby vitorio » 25 Nov 2010, 04:23

Along with a bag of thumbscrews and washers and wingnuts, and a flatpack box full of laser-cut acrylic, there's half a dozen pages of illustrations for assembly instructions. Here's how Sola recommends lighting the platform and positioning the camera:

scannersetup.png
Instructions
scannersetup.png (39.83 KiB) Viewed 4928 times


It includes the note, "scan in a room that is dark except for spotlight," because, you probably all know this already, but I don't understand anything until I try it, and, wow, acrylic is super reflective:

reallyreflective.jpg
There are four lights
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I've been assembling this on my desk, rather than in a fully-equipped garage, so to simulate the recommended conditions, I turned off the lights, placed the scanner on the carpeted floor and moved a desk lamp into position, with a dark towel replacing what I suppose should really be blackout curtain cloth or something:

acrylicseams.jpg
You can see the glue... and the carpet.
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Because the entire thing is acrylic, what isn't being reflective, is being transparent, so you can see both the texture and dirtiness of my carpet, and the texture of the towel. This thing needs to be on a solid black surface with a matching black curtain.

Also, take a close look at the spine: you can see the unevenness of my gluing. On a book like this, where the text goes really deep into the spine, there are visible smears of glue going right up against lines of text in a couple of places.

Finally, you need a proper camera with a shorter focal distance or a macro mode. I don't actually own one yet, so I used a video camera, and it doesn't like taking photos from only 14" away from the subject:

bookandcamera.jpg
The assembly that took the book photos
bookandcamera.jpg (94.18 KiB) Viewed 4928 times


I believe it would work as advertised, given a real camera, a proper black platform, a flat black curtain, an overhead spotlight and an otherwise dark room (or fully-enclosing it in curtain, perhaps), but I now understand that these are all the things that the larger builds give you. Without the assembly for the light and the curtain, the kit seems incomplete.

And without a proper camera, I can't actually use it to photograph an entire book and discover how annoying not being able to do facing pages is, so I suppose there'll be more updates later.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby seltzered » 25 Nov 2010, 13:22

interesting, it's comforting to see more book scanners kits sold now. I wish they used some metal frames around the acrylic instead to avoid gluing stuff together, and have a packable setup.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby Misty » 25 Nov 2010, 13:42

That sounds a lot less convenient than I was expecting. Glad to have this review, since I was looking at that kit myself. Thanks, Vitorio.

How adjustable is the camera mount? I'd be concerned that the image center is going to vary a lot based on the size of the camera.
The opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby spamsickle » 25 Nov 2010, 14:07

I'm curious about the camera mount too. From the picture, it looks like you have 3 sets of holes, but the height stays the same for all of them. You can move the camera from side to side, and closer or farther away, but I don't see a way to put the center of the lens over the center of the page, width-wise.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby vitorio » 25 Nov 2010, 16:34

It's definitely hard to see considering it's all transparent! Here's the "final assembly" illustration from the instructions:

scannerassembly.png
Final assembly
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The "platform assembly" has two sets of three holes on the vertical stands, where the thumbscrews and wingnuts go, so you can either have it go right up against the "base assembly" or recess it about two inches. The base assembly has that tall vertical slit so you can slide the platform assembly up and down vertically; that's what the thumbscrews and wingnuts are for, holding it place if you've made it higher.

The digital camera screws into one of the holes in the array at the top of the platform assembly.

It seems pretty flexible, unless your camera lens is four inches off the base of the assembly, in which case this was the best I could do.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby vitorio » 25 Nov 2010, 16:51

Actually, as I wrote that, it occurred to me that perhaps I could lower the tower below the bottom of the base, by using the top hole and lowering it through to the bottom of the slots in the base assembly, like this:

offsetplatform.jpg
The platform offset from the base
offsetplatform.jpg (190.72 KiB) Viewed 4847 times


That gives you a couple extra inches of vertical room, but it's not very stable that way.

That said, it did get the lens closer to the book, resulting in much fewer out-of-focus pixels dedicated to my carpet:

closerphoto.jpg
Now the lens is closer to the book
closerphoto.jpg (71.68 KiB) Viewed 4847 times


Turns out this video camera has a 28" minimum focus distance.

Also, don't pick this thing up by the base assembly's platens. Always pick it up from the bottom of the base.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby vitorio » 25 Nov 2010, 17:07

Misty wrote:That sounds a lot less convenient than I was expecting. Glad to have this review, since I was looking at that kit myself.


In software development, there's an idea of "build one to throw away," that you can't know all the things you need to know about building a system until you've built it, so build one to learn from and then do it "for real." I figure this is my one to throw away.

It's pretty convenient in the sense that it's a starter kit that teaches you a lot about what has to go into a scanner. All the things that Daniel Reetz knows because he's built fifty of them, iterating each time, I think it probably gets you a lot closer to all the things he's had to figure out with trial and error, because now you immediately have a working, but not perfect, one to think critically about.

I get the lighting issues now. I can imagine gingerly lifting this top platen off, turning the page, trying to not disturb the book itself too much, and then putting it back down, taking a photo manually, and then repeating that for 100 pages, and then turning the book around and doing it again for the opposite hundred pages, and how that could get tiresome compared to the New Standards where I just pull the platen up, turn the page and push it back down again. I see the importance of having all the extra kit provided like a good camera and blackout curtain, because not having these things mean I still can't scan any books.

I think this would probably perform adequately given the right lighting setup and a decent camera, but could definitely get tiring to do a large quantity of books with compared to some of the other designs. I intend to do at least one complete book with it to find out more.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby spamsickle » 25 Nov 2010, 17:40

I see, the whole "camera platform" is adjustable up and down. That should do it.

I assume the holes in the vertical piece of the camera platform don't perform any function, and are just there because the piece is identical to the 45-degree piece your camera's screwed into.
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Re: Sola Technical's $70 acrylic scanning platform on Ponoko

Postby vitorio » 25 Nov 2010, 18:01

spamsickle wrote:I assume the holes in the vertical piece of the camera platform don't perform any function, and are just there because the piece is identical to the 45-degree piece your camera's screwed into.


Correct!
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