A new desktop device went on general sale yesterday that has 3D printing enthusiasts excited. But it isn’t a 3D printer – it’s a 3D scanner. The Makerbot Digitizer is a clever little machine that uses lasers to create a 3D map of objects placed on its black plastic turntable.
At first glance, the possibilities opened by this may not be obvious. So, you can scan your tea cup – so what?
The excitement comes when you consider what can be achieved by pairing the Digitizer with a 3D printer. Anything small enough to be mapped by the Digitizer’s lasers can be pushed to a 3D printer and recreated in glorious plastic. It’s effectively a 3 dimensional photocopier.
Home 3D printing is a blossoming industry, but it’s being held back by a number of significant difficulties. Not least of these is the fact that that to produce anything with your printer, you either need to draw a map of the object you want to create with 3D modelling software, or find someone who can do it for you. The Makerbot Digitizer side-steps that difficulty by creating the map for you.
There are limitations, of course. You can’t make anything you don’t already have, or anything that won’t fit on the little turntable. Furthermore, the copies you make might not be able to do what the original did; you can create a perfect replica of your teacup in shiny plastic, but unless you like the taste of molten plastic, it wouldn’t be a good idea to pour any tea in it.
Still, this represents an exciting new tool in the arsenal of desktop 3D printing, and a significant step forwards in what can be achieved by an enthusiastic amateur.
Thomas is a guest writer from deal discovery and money saving site Suppose.com (http://www.suppose.com/).