MakerBot Releases 3D Scanner To Market

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A 3D scanner has gone on sale so people can scan in everyday objects and then reproduce them with a 3D printer

The long wait for a 3D scanner to complement the 3D printer craze is now over after desktop 3D printer company MakerBot confirmed that its 3D scanner is now on sale,

The machine was first announced in March this year and is known as the MakerBot Digitiser, a 3D scanner which allows anyone to scan a physical object and create a digital blueprint of it.

“It is a powerful and elegant tool to allow people to turn physical objects into digital designs,” explains CEO Bre Pettis.

It works when an object is placed onto the scanner’s turntable and a combination of a video camera and lasers map the object and its contours as it turns around. According to Pettis, this process transforms the physical object into a digital design (or scan), which can then be made (or printed out) by a MakeBot 3D printer.

3D Scanner

3D Printed Shoe By Alan Nguyen (Small)

The company says for it takes 12 minutes to create a 3D model (or scan) of a gnome. It works because the camera records the reflections of the lasers and saves the data so it can print out the object at later stage.

The Digitiser is said to work with objects up to 2 by 8 inches. Theoretically this means that you could digitise objects and archive the scans so that the objects can be recreated later if they’re damaged or destroyed.

Another feature of the scanner is that users can upload their 3D designs (or scans) directly to a website called Thingiverse, that shares 3D designs with people.

Realistic Expectations

The arrival of the 3D scanner comes after the Brooklyn-based MakerBot opened a new 55,000-square-foot factory back in June to make the device. The MakerBot Digitiser costs $1,400 (£896) on preorder, and will ship to the first customers in October.

So who is expected to buy this 3D scanner? Well, according to MakerBot’s FAQ page, “the MakerBot Digitizer is for early adopters, experimenters, and visionaries who want to be pioneers in Desktop 3D Scanning. This includes, but is not limited to, architects, designers, creative hobbyists, educators, and artists.”

It warns people to be realistic about its capabilities, and not expect it to be able to reproduce highly complex items.

“Expectations should be realistic,” said the company. “You will not be able to, for example, scan a hamburger and then eat the digital design. Expectations for precision should be realistic, too. The MakerBot Digitizer is not ideal for engineers who require very high precision scanning. If you need a realistic reproduction of the tiny features on an insect’s body, the MakerBot Digitizer is not the tool for you.”

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