We present scAnt, an open-source platform for the creation of digital 3D models of arthropods and small objects. scAnt consists of a scanner and a Graphical User Interface, and enables the automated generation of Extended Depth Of Field images from multiple perspectives. These images are then masked with a novel automatic routine which combines random forest-based edge-detection, adaptive thresholding and connected component labelling. The masked images can then be processed further with a photogrammetry software package of choice, including open-source options such as Meshroom, to create high-quality, textured 3D models. We demonstrate how these 3D models can be rigged to enable realistic digital specimen posing, and introduce a novel simple yet effective method to include semi-realistic representations of approximately planar and transparent structures such as wings. As a result of the exclusive reliance on generic hardware components, rapid prototyping and open-source software, scAnt costs only a fraction of available comparable systems. The resulting accessibility of scAnt will (i) drive the development of novel and powerful methods for machine learning-driven behavioural studies, leveraging synthetic data; (ii) increase accuracy in comparative morphometric studies as well as extend the available parameter space with area and volume measurements; (iii) inspire novel forms of outreach; and (iv) aid in the digitisation efforts currently underway in several major natural history collections.
Keywords: 3D; Digitisation; Macro imaging; Morphometry; Photogrammetry; Zoology.
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