The MakerBot Digitizer is a revolutionary new way to scan 3-dimensional objects into your computer. Could this newfangled technology pioneer 3D scanning?
3D printing is certainly starting to gain considerable momentum. However, 3D printers require code to facilitate manufacture of a particular design. Therefore, you are left with two possibilities; either download the code from a website, such as MakerBot Thingiverse, or develop your own code, typically, by using software bundled with your 3D printer. This code can be difficult and time-consuming to make.
This is where the MakerBot Digitizer steps in. The user does not need any specialist knowledge in 3D modeling or printing, and is able to replicate the dimensions of an object, on the fly, before uploading the model to a desktop computer.
According to The Wall Street Journal, company CEO Bre Pettis had this to say about his new product:
“We believe that the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner is an innovative technological breakthrough that sets the standard for affordable desktop 3D scanning… We focused on making the MakerBot Digitizer super easy to use, intuitive and simple.”
The device harnesses two technologies to scan a particular object, including a dual laser configuration and a camera. The scanning procedure can be a lengthy one, spanning an estimated 12 minute time period, as the object revolves on a movable plate to provide a 3-dimensional capture. According to the designers, the Digitizer has an algorithm that joins hundreds of thousands of points to create an uninterrupted digital mesh, outlining the object’s surface.
Unfortunately, the technology is somewhat constrained in terms of the dimensions and weight of the object to be scanned; the object can be no taller than eight inches, whilst the maximum weight is three kilograms.
Once the machine has spun, the image is uploaded to a computer in the form of a digital design file, where it can be edited to suit the user’s desires. 3D models can then undergo a changeup in design, the results of which can then be shared online, via an upload to the Thingiverse database.
After the user has become exhausted from all of this creative tinkering, the design file can then be used to print replicas of the redesigned model; a 3D printer would be required for this step, which entails further expenditure.
The MakerBot Digitizer is ideal for generating prototypes, works of art, sculptures and figurines and can be used in a professional or, if you have the money, semi-professional capacity. In time, as the technology matures, this may be the pioneering equipment needed to finally make 3D scanning affordable.
However, according to the manufacturer’s own FAQ page, the device’s abilities are somewhat limited. Certain surfaces are particularly troublesome to scan, with a number of materials making it difficult for the camera to detect the laser line at the appropriate position. Likewise, dark objects represent a similar issue, as much of the laser is absorbed.
It must be said, this technology is the first of its kind and is likely to improve in the coming years. The device’s developers have already stipulated that “… early adopters, experimenters, and visionaries who want to be pioneers in Desktop 3D Scanning,” will be the company’s key demographic. This is a relatively accurate assessment of the product, as the tech’s current $1,400 price tag is likely to be out of reach of the average consumer or hobbyist; this excludes the $150 for the MakerCare support software, which sounds reminiscent of a warranty, offering customers a contact department for advice and the choice between a component replacement service or sending the device back for repair.
The company is accepting preorders for the MakerBot Digitizer, with units due to be pushed out in October. The tantalizing capability of 3D scanning could be yours, if you’re willing to splash the cash.
By: James Fenner