MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner Turbocharges the Printing Process

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-09-26 Email Print this article Print

MakerBot recently showed off its Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner, a $1,400 complement to its Replicator line of 3D printers. The Digitizer, a small, light device with an 8-inch turntable and two lasers, can scan just about anything that's 8-inches by 8-inches or smaller in 12 minutes. It's what's called a "sheet of light triangulation scanner." The turntable moves 800 oh-so-subtle times while one laser runs over the details of the item, and then it takes another spin around while the second laser goes to work. The MakerBot software then seamlessly combines the two "point clouds" and puts a mesh around them, intuitively filling in any missing details and presenting the user with a watertight digital model that it might have otherwise taken hours, if not days, to create. With a click, the model can then be printed, or, using MakerBot's software, manipulated. MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis likes to say that the Digitizer offers a "jumpstart on the design process because users don't need to start from scratch." MakerBot is now accepting preorders and expects to begin shipping in mid-October. "The power of the [3D printing] community is deep and strong," Pettis said at a Sept. 20 event. "There's going to be an explosion of creativity."

  • MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner Turbocharges the Printing Process

    by Michelle Maisto
    1 - MakerBot Digitizer 3D Scanner Turbocharges the Printing Process
  • Meet the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner

    Want to jump-start a design project? Want to make a 3D replica of something but have no design skills or experience with CAD? MakerBot says no problem: Meet the Digitizer.
    2 - Meet the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner
  • How It Works

    To scan an object, place it on the Digitizer's turntable. The turntable subtly spins 800 times, giving the two lasers on the top corners of the device a chance to mark down a point for each detail they record during the turning process (one laser gets its turn, and then the other goes). The two "point clouds" are then combined and a mesh is put over them, making the item waterproof. All of this happens automatically in 12 minutes.
    3 - How It Works
  • Who Doesn't Like Lasers?

    Here's a view of one of the lasers making its way over an object. Where the shell is opaque, the laser often can't recognize information, but the software is smart enough to fill in the missing bits. Makerbot engineers say organic materials scan particularly well. And while dark objects are hard to scan, as they reflect the light, there are tricks to help—like a quick dusting with baby powder or cornstarch.
    4 - Who Doesn't Like Lasers?
  • 3D Scans as Starting Blocks

    While the Digitizer makes it simple to copy an item, its software makes it easy to manipulate the scan and get creative. Here, Makerbot engineer Jamie Charry shows how easy it is to lob off the top half of the shell and get creative.
    5 - 3D Scans as Starting Blocks
  • Upload to Thingiverse

    As soon as the Digitzer completes the scan of an object, it offers to upload the file to Thingiverse, where other 3D printer owners can access it. Pettis said the motivation to create Thingiverse four years ago was simple: People could download music and videos and books. But where was the site to download things?
    6 - Upload to Thingiverse
  • The Replicator 2 3D Printer

    With the gnome scan complete, Makerbot's Replicator 2 3D printer gets to work. Pettis said the company made the intentional decision to make a separate scanner, instead of combining it with the printer. One reason was that they felt it would be better separate, and the second was so the 23,000 people who own a Replicator could use the Digitizer.
    7 - The Replicator 2 3D Printer
  • MakerBot's CEO and Lead Cheerleader

    Bre Pettis is clearly excited about the opportunities the scanner offers, to hobbyists and customers like NASA and Lockheed Martin. But he also appreciates how it will change people's thinking. "When you need something, you're not going to just reach for your checkbook," he said. "We're just at the beginning of something huge."
    8 - MakerBot's CEO and Lead Cheerleader
  • Creativity, Keepsakes, Big Business (and a Little Junk)

    Analysts say the biggest benefit of 3D printers is the time they will save designers, who can quickly advance through several iterations. Pettis also appreciates the more emotional perks. He scanned his baby daughter's first pair of shoes, as well as a family heirloom that was handed down to him. It was "satisfying," he said, to give his father back a scanned version of the sculpture.
    9 - Creativity, Keepsakes, Big Business (and a Little Junk)
  • From Engine Parts to Party Favors

    Makerbot shrunk down the scan of its gnome to create a party favor—small enough to fit in a plastic "gumball"— of its gnome being scanned on the Digitizer.
    10 - From Engine Parts to Party Favors

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