Let's Make Robots!

laser distance measuring

I've been pondering building a musical instrument with multiple 'strings' that are actually a set of distance measuring devices set up in a line. However in order to avoid the strings interfering with each other it occured to be lasers might be the best approach. Unfortunately pre-constructed laser range finders are pricey. Has anyone got any experience putting these together from smaller components (i.e. a laser light plus a sensor).

I am thinking of writing a cad tool

So I've tried about 10 different CAD programs now to try and create my robot models, and am quite simply.. ANGRY! Apologies if this post sounds a little ranty - I'm just a bit fed up, so try and read this post with your angry filter on :)

Every program seems to have it's floors or problems, that seem to come from 2 distinct areas:

what cad tool?

SO I've recently got an UP 32 printer, but am not sure what application to use to model my new robot in - they all seem to have various advantages / disadvantages. The ultimate question for this topic is: What cad tool to use? Some of my findings are below but I've still not found something I'm happy with.

help with 3d image reconstruction (from stereo or multiple images)

Does anybody have any experience with, or any good references on reconstructing a 3d scene from a stero image, or lots of images from different positions?

My use case is obviously a robot (MmBot) which has a stereo camera mounted on the front. I don't want to use a proper depth camera, as they are intrusive so I couldn't have multiple robots in the same room all seeing at once.

This is MmBot with the stereo cameras on the left, and the image she sends to the pc on the right.