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Breakthrough 3D Scanner Could Be Next Big Thing
Breakthrough 3D Scanner Could Be Next Big Thing

By Seth Fitzgerald
August 24, 2013 5:16PM

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The MakerBot Digitizer consists of a turntable with two lasers and a camera that can scan objects up to 8 inches in size. MakerBot says its Digitizer can capture details as small as 0.5mm and that its dimensional accuracy is within 2mm. Scans take about 12 minutes to produce. MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis has called the $1,400 Digitizer a "game changer."
 



The company that has been leading the 3D printing market is now prepping its next innovation: a 3D scanner. The MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner allows a user to set down a small item, scan it in 3D, then manipulate or modify that scan on a computer.

The device is expected to become available mid-October, with MakerBot currently taking pre-orders online at $1,400.

MakerBot already has two popular 3D printers on the market, the Replicator 2 and the Replicator 2X, but the digitizer could revolutionize the market by speeding up the design-to-deployment process in many industries.

Other Side of the Equation

While the 3D printing process is relatively easy, creating the digital model used to do the printing is not. Online services such as Thingiverse offer thousands of user-created models, but if you cannot find a design for something, then you have to model the physical product yourself.

The MakerBot Digitizer changes the process by allowing people to take any small item -- a human hand, a computer mouse, a cup -- and turn it into a digital design that can be replicated in a 3D printer and even used by other people across the world.

The Digitizer consists of a turntable with two lasers and a camera that can scan objects up to 8 inches in size. The company says it can capture details as small as 0.5mm and that its dimensional accuracy is within 2mm. Scans take about 12 minutes to produce.

MakerBot has already made the printing side of the business more accessible with printers costing around $2,500, but without a way to upload designs, a lot of people have yet to see a use for 3D printing. MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis has called the Digitizer a "game changer."

In addition to MakerBot's device, various projects from crowdfunded groups have come up with ways to assemble 3D scans. One device, which uses a Microsoft Kinect, has gained a lot of attention. With these types of devices becoming capable of turning physical objects into manipulatable data, 3D printing has a bright future.

Changing the World

In March, Dartmouth business professor Richard D'Aveni wrote in the Harvard Business Review that "3D printing will change the world," and it seems D'Aveni may be right. The market for 3D printing is taking off, particularly among hobbyists and other consumers, and while their projects often are impressive, the potential for 3D printing goes far beyond making a cup or a toy.

Physicians believe 3D printing could revolutionize the medical-devices industry with the ability to quickly print organs or limbs for patients. Engineers have already successfully manufactured human livers that could work.

On the other hand, 3D printers also can be used for projects like the recent printed gun project in Canada. Engineers were able to construct a rifle made from 3D printable materials and then fire bullets with it before it broke apart after 14 shots.

The gun was not very high tech and could only shoot once before having to go through a relatively long loading process. However, for better or worse, 3D printing will change the lives of many.
 

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

G Oden:

Posted: 2013-08-27 @ 3:52pm PT
123D Catch by Autodesk is a free "3d Scanning" program that uses photogrammetry that delivers about the same accuracy and resolution based on the published Makerbot Digitizer specs, +/- 2mm accuracy, .5mm resolution

B Miller:

Posted: 2013-08-25 @ 6:24am PT
The Digitizer is too expensive. It should be no more than $500. If they want to justify charging $1,400, they should detach the scanner from the turn table. Allow it to connect back to the turn table if desired. But the scanner should be able to be affixed to a tripod, don't ditch the one button method, but add on the ability to stitch your models. This would allow the user to scan much larger objects that could then be rescaled or cut up in netfabb. I use my nextengine to do just this.

In Re: to medical use. My father has Congestive heart failure, they want to put him on the transplant list. Dr Khalpy at the University of Arizona's Medical Center (UAMC) is researching stem cells and 3d printing. They are able to grow human heart tissue. They can 3d print a heart for my dad. I can't believe this technology exists, but it does and it can save my dad's life, this technology is amazing.



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