Constructed with a molybdenum disulfide impregnated Nylon shell and nick-named “Moly,” this hand-held 3D scanner was the first camera ever built that used the holographic optical element (HOE) of a point source referenced by a plane wave as its primary objective. This type of HOE acquires a uniform “telecentric” slice of space devoid of perspective artifacts. Sequential scans are located by magnetic wave detectors and assembled slice by slice into a surface co-ordinate map. Subjects are illuminated by Moly’s on-board laser which is expanded and then collimated into a uniform rectilinear sheet of light matching the telecentric field-of-view. The magnetic wave detector has receivers located both on the scanned surface and on Moly, so the two receivers can move independently and yet stay in registration with each other.

NASA Funded under a 1996 Phase II NSF SBIR grant, Moly was given the Sensor and Instrumentation SBIR Project of the Year award in a NASA-juried competition in 1997.

SPIE Conference Paper

SPIE Optical Engineering Article



Art in 3D was traditionally pursued through sculpture, but starting in the 1970’s it became possible to use computers as data bases for “virtual” sculpture. Mathematical models of physical objects were constructed from geometric primitives. On the other hand, the real world was left out of the 3D data base until technologies were developed for recording space. This motivated the invention hand-held 3D scanners such as Moly which was intended for portraiture and life study.

Tom Ditto’s portraits include an album cover for “Glow in the Dark” by Kevin Bartlett (Aural Gratification label), shown here. Because the portrait is in 3D, it can be seen from three vantage points at once.

Unfortunately, Moly’s dependency on magnetic wave detection for localization reduced the effect resolution from 300 microns for the holographic method to 1 mm for the magnetic wave localizer. The 3D Maus will change that, because chromatic diffraction range finders are highly accurate, micron-capable localizers.