I am looking to apply materials on a mesh model output by a 3D scanner, what are the things to keep in mind? The output can be a STL or CAD format.

If the STL file is heavily triangulated, can I convert them to quads? And also if it is high poly, is there a modifier that I can use to reduce the poly count?

  • $\begingroup$ Please make the title of the question specific to what you are trying to achieve and not just the general topic. $\endgroup$ Sep 27 '16 at 17:57

3D scanned files are not only heavily triangulated, but also tend to have loads of polygons. As with every question, it depends on the purpose of your final result (still image, animation, 3D game asset, printing) if this is good or bad. Another important but missing information would be the kind of model we're talking about (thus my answer will be quite broad). Things can work on a 3D scan of a rock but that doesn't mean that they also work on a 3D scan of a person.

Blender offers some basic possibilities to convert triangles to quads (mainly the decimate modifier) but it only rarely does its job in a way that you could call the result a mesh with clean topology.

There are also tools out there which are specifically programmed with the goal of creating clean topologized meshes. Instant Meshes is one of them.

As someone whose primarily focus is creating game assets, I would go the "hard" way and do the re-topology by hand, as it's shown in numerous tutorials around the internet. You could then use your scanned model as the high-poly model and bake all the medium details as a displacement map and all the fine details as a normal map. These models can also be used in still renderings, animations and of course in 3D printing.

Again, this answer is very broad due to the lack of information regarding the purpose and the form of the model in general.

  • $\begingroup$ I am trying to see how a motorcycle looks with different colours and materials. Since coming up with the mesh model of a motorcycle is a time consuming task, I was wondering if I could 3D scan it and customize it with different materials. This is to show people what we can do with those machines. $\endgroup$
    – ChrisOdney
    Sep 28 '16 at 4:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ChrisOdney - complex models like machines consist of various materials and it's advisable to create them in submeshes. It would take ages to clean up a scan of a motor cycle but only some hours for a skilled modeler to recreate an accurate 3D low-poly model of it. If you have no blueprints (side, top, front) I stand by my statement that re-topology from high to low-poly is the best way to do it. $\endgroup$ Sep 28 '16 at 5:01
  • $\begingroup$ How about I dismantle the motorcycle scan each of the parts and put them together? $\endgroup$
    – ChrisOdney
    Sep 28 '16 at 5:41
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisOdney - that would be even more work. The scanned parts won't fit together automatically like real parts. As I said, I stand by my recommendation. $\endgroup$ Sep 28 '16 at 6:11

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