3D desktop scanner promises to revolutionise 3D printing

March 15th, 2013 by Mark J

3D printing has been around for a while now and though the things that are being made with the technology have gradually become more impressive the printers themselves have yet to become as commonplace as a desktop printer. One of the reasons is that they’re still prohibitively expensive, another is that in order to make 3D things you need a 3D model to start with. And that’s where MakerBot comes in with its Digitizer Desktop 3D scanner.

The new scanner, or at least a prototype of it, was being shown off by MakerBot at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas. Previously creating 3D models for printing would have required 3D modelling skills using CAD programs, which can be a tricky business. MakerBot’s rig uses lasers and a rotating platform to scan in real-world objects and turn them into 3D models.

A garden gnome is the object which has been used as an example of something that can be replicated. Given the size of the prototype it doesn’t look like anything much bigger than the guardians of our gardens will fit onto the turn table but it certainly has the potential to create a lot of cool stuff. It’s also not clear how it will work on hollow objects, like say a mug.

The possibilities it opens up are exciting and should aid 3D printing on its way to becoming the next industrial revolution. Artists could mass produce their latest sculptures, spare parts would no longer have to come from manufacturers and all I can think about at the moment is a printer chucking out an endless amount of Lego bricks.

There’s no info yet on how much the scanner is going to cost (which is going to drive up the cost of 3D printing even more) or when it’s going to be available but when it does it promises to be a significant step for the technology. Anyone who is interested can sign up for alerts when more info is available over at the official site.

Currently MakerBot’s biggest customer is NASA, which uses its 3D printers to make cheap prototypes, demonstrating that it is space, and not just sky, that is the limit when it comes to what the tech can do.

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