I was on hand at MakerBot Industries’ Brooklyn headquarters for the first press demo of the company’s Digitizer 3D scanner. Following a talk by MakerBot’s CEO, Bre Pettis, we were given a demonstration of the scanner in action. It appears to be simple to operate, and capable of good-quality scans. My first impression is that it should be a great tool for anyone who owns a 3D printer and wants to scan objects for printing.
MakerBot Industries, founded in 2009, has made its name by developing 3D printers for hobbyists and professionals. Along with numerous makers and product designers, the company has clients such as NASA, Lockheed Martin (which uses its printers in designing a camera for the James Webb Space Telescope), and GE. The Replicator 2 and Replicator 2X are fourth-generation products. In June, MakerBot was acquired by Stratasys Inc., and operates as a subsidiary and distinct brand.
The company wanted to build a 3D scanner to go along with its 3D printers. Commercially available 3D scanners currently range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are quite specialized. “We wanted to make something for people to scan things on the Replicator 2,” said Pettis.
The Digitizer, which can scan objects up to 8 inches across and 8 inches tall, takes 12 minutes to scan an object to a digital file. We watched as the Digitizer scanned an object (a conch shell). The object is placed in the center of a turntable, which slowly rotates as a laser is trained on it. A camera photographs the reflected light, creating a point map of the object. Once the first pass is done, a second laser shoots the object from a different angle as it rotates. The point maps are combined to create the 3D scan, which appears on screen. The lasers are of very low power and, according to the company, totally eye-safe.
The Digitizer can send the scan directly to the Thingiverse repository of 3D object files, or import it into the company’s MakerWare software for output on a Replicator. And if you don’t have a MakerBot printer, you can save the file to STL format and print it out on any other 3D printer. “We expect to see an explosion of creativity once these are shipped,” said Pettis..
The MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner is scheduled to go on sale in October, for $1,400. It’s already available for pre-order through the company’s website.
By Tony Hoffman, PCMag