3D printing is a revolution in manufacturing and design, but right now it’s one largely limited to people with the knowledge and skills to craft an object in 3D rendering software. But what if making a design file for an object was as simple as putting it on a turntable and letting a scanner do the work? That’s the idea behind the Makerbot Digitizer, from one of the more popular 3D printing companies.
The design itself is pretty simple. You can put any object, up to eight inches by eight inches, on the turntable, fire up the software, and the digitizer does the rest. The turntable slowly rotates, scanning all the nooks and crannies of the item you want replicated, and when it’s done, you’ve got a 3D file. No need for using complicated CAD software, no need to try and file a file for the item you want to print on Thingiverse; exactly what you want is right there in the computer, available to use on most 3D printers.
There are, of course, a few caveats. As always a 3D printer generally only prints the object itself, not the colors it came in. And if you want to make anything larger than an eight inch by eight inch item, you’re either going to have to take it to an industrial 3D scanner or craft it yourself out of CAD software. Similarly, if you want to change the design at all, you’re going to need to have the software to do so; the Digitizer only comes with the software it needs to scan and create the file.
But, for $1,400, this makes 3D printing just a touch more accessible to the rest of us, and will also likely mean more and more items available to download and print out. Now, could somebody scan some valuable art for us? We, uh, need it for a friend.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.