Selling to the EU once more!

We’re happy to announce that we are now once again offering our automated photogrammetry products on the EU market. When we first started business in 2018, the United Kingdom was still in the EU single market, and we benefitted from that significantly. Over 25% of our existing product and consultancy customers were at Universities of EU member states including: the University of Copenhagen, Ludwig Maximilian University, and the University of Bordeaux. If you are part of a research project, business or institution with a mass digitisation strategy that uses photogrammetry in the UK or the EU please contact us today to see how we can help you!

Presenting the Tablepi2

Our promise to our customers at PalaeoPi has always been that we will re-invest a significant proportion of the money raised through our business back into continuous improvement of our hardware and software.  Four years into it, the last two of which have posed a serious challenge to us and many other UK based small businesses and we are ready to announce some very good news.  The TablePi2!  Here we will discuss the hardware, software, and significant performance improvements we’ve made to our product line, and how our original customers can benefit too. 

Fig 1. The TablePi2: with new and improved computer module and turntable unit

The hardware improvements part 1: the new computer module

Utilising the latest Raspberry Pi 4 and operating system Bullseye, the TablePi2 offers some significant improvements over the original TablePi best summed up with the word speed. The TablePi2 computer module is significantly faster than its predecessor, it is faster to boot up, faster to update, and more importantly it’s 5x faster at capturing and downloading your photographs than the old TablePi using the old turntable and version 1.1.0 of the capture software (see Table 1 and Fig 2).  However, it’s not all bad news for people who have the older TablePi, and that is because the hardware alone only affords 49% of the performance gained between the two systems.  By updating your old TablePi to the newest software and keeping your old motor unit if you were on version 1.1.0, you’ll see a 3.8x performance boost over the old software (when using 3 cameras). 

ModelCamerasDownloadPicsResMotorSoftwareCapture time (m)
Table 1. Benchmarking for versions 1.1 and 2.4.2 of the software which runs on both models

If you are interested you can read about the performance differences between the Raspberry Pi 3 (TablePi) and the Raspberry Pi 4 here. The performance data gathered can be found in Table 1 and Fig 2 below comparing both makes of TablePi both running versions 1.1.0 or 2.4.2 of our capture software and either using the old or new Turntable unit (motor).  The camera used for benchmarking was a Nikon D5300 set to maximum resolution 24MP, RAW format, F16, ISO100, and a shutter speed of 1 second, performance may vary significantly using other models of camera and settings.  Although untested it is anticipated that by using a USB3 camera with the TablePi2, users will experience further performance gains when downloading images via one of the USB3 ports.

* Number of images doesn’t match when using the old motor because the step resolution is much lower so this value has been normalised to 36 images from 32.

Figure 2. Benchmarking for versions 1.1 and 2.4.2 of the software which runs on both models

The hardware improvements part 2: the new turntable module

The computer module isn’t the only thing that we have improved.  We have also changed the manufacturing process, our stepper driver, and motor; making significant improvements on the older TablePi, summarised in the bulleted list below:

  • Zero noise during operation, no more motor humming
  • Variable speed and acceleration
  • Smoother stepping, less vibrations
  • Simplified internal design making it easier and cheaper to replace parts
  • The firmware is easier to modify and customise the behaviour for
  • Higher resolution stepping, meaning more image number options for capture
  • Higher stepping accuracy, meaning better image alignment in post processing
  • Higher motor torque, meaning heavier objects can be scanned
  • The snap on magnetised scanning surface is easier to remove and replace

The software improvements

As mentioned earlier in part 1 of the hardware improvements.  The real game changer in terms of performance has come from investing many hours in improving our capture software. The development of the TablePi2 has driven a major reworking of our capture software which we have been able to port backwards to the original TablePi. By updating a TablePi from version 1.1.0 to 2.4.3 you get a 3.8x capture and download speed increase when using three cameras, see Table 1 and Fig 2. By using the new software on the new hardware (the TablePi2) you get a 5.0x increase in performance when compared to the TablePi using version 1.1.0 of the software.

The main improvements seen between versions 1.1.0 and 2.4.3 of the capture software are summarised below:

  • Responsive user interface that gives continual feedback on capture progress and camera activity
  • 3.8x faster image capture and download speeds when using three cameras
  • Parallel camera capture, cameras will now trigger simultaneously rather than sequentially
  • Automatic image format detection, recognising all major RAW and common image formats
  • Double sided objects, capture will pause and prompt you to flip the object, you control when capture resumes
  • Fast capture or capture and download, leave the images on the camera for a fast scan, or download to a USB drive, it’s now your choice
  • Improved camera support, updated software supports newer digital camera models
  • Camera error recovery, intelligent error handling will allow you to recover your capture if your camera SD card is full or your batteries need changing
  • Pause and resume capture, if you need to pause a capture to adjust your cameras you may pause the capture and resume it later
  • Colour coded user interface feedback, making it easier for users to know what to do next during a capture or if an error is encountered
  • Capture cancel if you start a capture and wish to cancel it at any point in the process
  • Remote software updates no longer needing a base return

The best part: backwards compatibility

Our capture software version 2.4.3 is designed to run on both the older TablePi and the TablePi2 alike meaning our older customers will continue to receive software improvements if they choose to. The new turntable unit is also designed to work with the computer modules from both the TablePi and the TablePi2 meaning owners of a TablePi have the option of a partial hardware upgrade instead of buying a completely new system.

What options are available for customers?

Customers new and old alike can buy a complete TablePi2 system to benefit from the full hardware upgrades here. If you do not intend to travel with or store your new TablePi2 i.e. have it set up in a studio and therefore do not require a protective case, you can buy one without one here.

If you own a TablePi purchased between 2018-2021 you can either update to the latest software release (version 2.4.3) and keep using you existing turntable module or update to the latest software and buy a new TablePi2 turntable module to use with your old computer module here

N.B If your software version is 1.1.0, it may necessitate a return to base to have a new operating system that supports the latest software installed.  For anyone with version 2.0 or later, a remote update can be applied via a remote support session, you may contact us to discuss or arrange either.

Our early customers may also have a carry case with pluck out foam that is now a little worse for wear four years down the line.  It is now possible to buy a new custom fitted case here with cnc milled foam for their old machine which should give it better protection for much longer into the future, or they can buy a case here which fits the old computer module in combination with the new turntable module.

Future plans?

We have some exciting software and hardware currently in development that will further our goal of photo to 3D for everyone, involving imaging really tiny things, high resolution camera modules, and more importantly a lighter weight system for more casual scanners with a smaller budget, so please stay tuned!

Thank you for reading!

Richard Benjamin Allen
Executive Director

Dog Skull (Cranium), Cuween Tomb

A few months prior to PalaeoPi spinning out from the University of Oxford, some time in late 2017, our executive director Richard Benjamin Allen worked with Historic Environment Scotland and National Museums Scotland to produce a photogrammetric model of one of the Cuween dog crania as part of a larger project into the life of canines at the site. This contract acted as a seed corn for the early days of the company and was one of the first objects to be created on our prototype automated turntable.

You can check out the skull below, and link to HES’s Sketchfab upload where there is more detailed information available on the project!

Our consultancy work with RTI!

I hear you say “what is RTI“?  Well it stands for Reflectance Transformation Imaging.  But that doesn’t tell you very much.  What it does, is basically allow one to capture the surface detail of an object and relight it from any angle.  How is this useful?  Some of you may also be thinking…  Well one use could be bringing out surface detail that is hard to see in ordinary lighting conditions.  Such as, hidden graffiti on a wall in a dark catacomb!  Or microscopic cut marks on a piece of bone that could have been butchered.  OK so with that last example they didn’t do RTI, and there has been a lot of controversy over their findings.  If they had done RTI, they would have been able to share their work easily through WordPress or any HTML based site using the WebGL application below made by A Gentleman called Gianpaolo Palma and so allowed greater transparency with their research!

Above is an example of a bone we imaged with the help of the AiU using a custom rig that designed and built by us, commissioned by a DPhil student and funded by the Ashmolean Museum for a special field project.  Go on, have a play!  It’s simple, just press the ? for on screen instructions and be amazed by the virtual “torch light” bringing out hidden surface details!

Below you can see some pictures of the rig we used that was inspired in part by this article in Make magazine but was eventually completely redesigned.  It’s bigger and badder and the circuitry is way more simple, we also added features such as swappable LEDs for potential multi-spectral imaging and ease of repair.

The rig was made through our image to model consultancy service which includes rapid prototyping!