My job this summer is to turn these parts:
… into this:
The parts on the table above are only some of what I’ll need: cameras, assorted technical bits and bobs, glass, and paint will also need to happen. The kit — and the Open Hardware plans on which its based [.zip file] — are from Dan Reetz and the community at DIYBookScanner.org. Dan’s been at this for many years: I built a version of the (much smaller) earlier design back when I lived in Seattle. This new iteration is branded the “Hackerspace Scanner”, in the sense that it has the scale and complexity to serve well in that context.
The key innovation of this project, in my opinion, is that it solves one big problem while purposefully not solving another. The problem it leaves unsolved is automatic page turning: you can find scanners that do this all robotically, with fancy vacuums, but they’re extremely expensive. Google themselves, as we can readily see, prefers to keep humans in the middle of this process.
So if there are no fancy robots turning the pages, how do you process a whole book in a reasonable amount of time? The answer is a system of pulleys and bungie cords, which counterbalance the V-shaped glass bracket which keeps both sides of the volume flat and ready to be photographed cleanly. Attached to the handle which lets you raise and lower the bracket easily is a bicycle handbrake, which can be been repurposed to either 1) trigger physical remote shutters, if you use DSLRs, or 2) actuate some kind of software-based USB signal to custom CHDK firmware on Canon point-and-shoots. Either way, you can integrate the raising, page-turning, lowering, and photographing steps into one (relatively) simple motion.
I’ll try to document my progress here on the blog as the project goes forward.