There have been a host of 3D scanners introduced this year. Some of them were designed as desktop models. Others went with hand-held designs. Examples include the NextEngine 3D scanner (pitched by Jay Leno), Fuel3D’s handheld 3D scanner, and Matterform’s Photon 3D scanner, to name just a few. With the overwhelming popularity that 3D printers have gained over the years, it was only natural that 3D scanners would follow suit.
Back in March of this year, MakerBot unveiled its prototype Digitizer scanner at the South by Southwest conference. It has since released blog reports detailing its developmental progress. The company recently announced that the final product would soon be released on the market. What is the whole buzz surrounding their Digitizer all about?
To begin with, the device no longer features that wooden prototype frame shown at its first unveiling, and features an improved sleek design that is pleasing to the eye. It’s also rumored to cost significantly less than those already available to consumers (costing less is always a plus). The digitizer itself allows users to make 3D CAD models of objects that can then be replicated by using any 3D printer (although MakerBot would prefer you use their printer line). The device is outfitted with a pair of lasers and an onboard camera that can in minutes scan objects that rotate on the scanner's turntable base. The scan is then refined using special software that fills in the holes (or fine details that were not picked up by the lasers) and generates a CAD file that results in an almost exact copy of the object scanned.
Theo software used with the Digitizer allows users to scale the object scanned, meaning small objects can become smaller or larger to accommodate the desired size. One can turn a mid-sized cat statue into a coffee mug or earrings. MakerBot says users will be able to use the scanner without any knowledge of CAD software, which makes the device one of the easier ones to use over others currently found on the market. While the actual price of the Digitizer is currently unknown, it is expected be available at a competitive price point.
Again, I could have used a 3D scanner and printer the other day. The plastic coupler on the front of one of my son's Tomy toy trains broke, and he asked me to glue it. I knew it was doubtful that glue would hold due to the slippery type of plastic and high force that the coupler has when in operation, but I gave it a shot.
I first tried model cement, hoping that it would be able to bond the small piece, but it didn't work, probably because the type of plastic. Actually, it didn't stick at all! Next I'm going to try my gorilla glue brand super glue, but I don't have high hopes.
Being able to scan and print one of these couplers would have been awesome.
I agree that the ability to print small, broken pieces would be terrific! With the variety of materials needed though, it almost seems like a niche for a fix-it shop to have this equipment.
I would love to have machine that would generate parts in different types of plastics and metals, but I don't see that happening unless a new technology comes along that lets one machine do the different types of materials.
I want to see products that offer downloadable 3D files for small pieces that may break to a larger item (e.g. lawnmower parts). I would use such availability as a plus for purchase decisions. Printing my own part may be more expensive than what the manufactured part costs, but not after their profit and distribution costs are included plus my gas consumed to drive across town to pick up the part at the only shop that carries them.
I have a few older items with broken pieces and it would be great to be able to fix them by creating a new piece that fits perfectly. For this I would need the ability to scan the currently broken piece and then edit it to smooth out what is wrong. In some cases you may have access to duplicate pieces so you have one that is not broken to use for scanning, but not always. It will be better in the long run if manufacturers provided the 3D models for each piece on their website to registered owners. They don't have to put every piece out there - just the small, easily broken ones.
Good luck with enforcing any design patents and copyrighted designs now. As the 3D additive technology technology continues to evolve at lightning pace, experts predict that even metal parts will be possible to copy and fabricate on the dining room table one day. The legal paradigm for "who to sue" goes out the window, as the power is passed to the individual and those pockets just aren't as deep making broad legal action unjustifiable. Just like Linux, open source development will keep this technology moving forward. Good luck with the legal and governmental regulation side. Remember the public backlash that rights administrators took over the poor mom who was sued for downloading Happy Birthday from Napster? This genie is now out of the bottle and things will never be the same in manufacturing... ever again. Maybe, just maybe this will be a good thing?
I suspect you're right, JimT. Just as the Internet required some tweaking of telecommunications/privacy/copyright laws, so will 3D printing and scanning require something to be done about merely ripping off designs. I'm sure some case will come up sooner or later to test this technology legally.
Considering that anyone can now take a single piece-part, scan it, and reproduce it with virtually no training or skills, I have to wonder how long before manufacturers of targeted objects cry foul, with concerns of illegal duplication or copyright infringement. Makes me think of Napster.com, when the Internet suddenly made 50 years' worth of existing music available. Disruptive technology often requires we make new rules.
Interesting post, Cabe. So let me get this straight, since I am not an expert by any means on this technology--these scanners allow you to make 3D digital scans of any object and then you can transfer this to a printer via computer to print the object? (Yes, perhaps this is me taking it to a very primary level, but it sort of blows my mind--and even though i write about technology I don't have a lot of the latest gadgets and whatnot. :)) Anyway, with technology like this, I think instead of this promised Internet of Things we all go on about, maybe it's more like A World of 3D-Printed Things that is more the next big trend!
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.