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The Future – Desktop 3D Scanning and Manufacturing

Before we finish our series “Everything you always wanted to know about 3D scanning” we wanted to take a moment to talk about what we think is the immediate future in 3D scanning and manufacturing: the technology is going Desktop.

In the last few years, companies have been creating more products with smaller footprints, at much lower price points, making the technology a viable tool for schools and medium to small businesses. In addition to these new products, students and hobbyists have been creating (and sharing) do-it-yourself versions of 3D scanning and rapid manufacturing products. Soon we could see 3D scanners and printers in home offices!

Coming in the near future – to a home workshop near you!


Commercial Desktop and Handheld Scanners:

There are a few digitizers and scanners out there that are sized and priced for the small business. The price points are not yet for your everyday consumer, but it is getting closer all of the time.

  • One of our favourite desktop digitizer/scanners is the Microscribe. It is a miniature articulating arm that is easily portable, is compatible with most popular reverse engineering and metrology packages, and offers near metrology level accuracy in a small package. Obviously you are not going to digitize an aeroplane with this – but we consider it the first major desktop digitizer (an attachable scanner is also available).
  • 3D metrology has also entered the realm of handheld and wireless. the microscope also now offer the MobiGage, the first handheld 3D metrology app. You don’t even need a computer, just a Microscribe and an iPhone or iPod Touch, to take measurements.
  • Next Engine also offers a desktop 3D laser scanner. Its compact size, ease of use, customer support and price point are quickly making it a popular choice for small businesses and individuals.

Open Source, Consumer and Up-Coming Scanning Technologies:

While they don’t come close to offering the same kind of accuracy as currently available scanning systems, there is a burgeoning community of small businesses, hobbyists and students who are working to bring 3D scanners into the home. New products are rapidly developing.

  • Qi Pan, a student at Cambridge University has created ProFORMA, which uses a webcam to collect data and create a colour 3D model.
  • David Laser Scanner offers a kit to build your own basic scanning system using everyday objects like a webcam and handheld laser pointer.
  • Perhaps the ultimate in DIY scanners, Friederich Kirschner used Legos, a webcam and some milk to create 3D models.

Desktop 3D Printers:

Like 3D scanners, 3D printers have already reached the small business market and are now just entering the individual consumer marketplace. Their build envelopes are limited but what could be cooler than printing your own action figures, robot parts, or 3D portraits?

  • The RepRap project is an open-source project aimed at creating self-replication rapid manufacturing machines. Based out of Bath University, the project shares its plans and the RepRap community can build as is or make their own improvements, which they can then share.
  • At the other end of the Desktop 3D printer spectrum comes the V Flash from 3D Systems. Rather than making your 3D printer from scratch, you can buy this smaller version of traditional additive manufacturing technology. It is priced for small businesses and schools.
  • In the same market space as the V Flash, Solido bills their SolidPro300 as the “world’s most cost-efficient and flexible 3D printer”. In the US the SolidPro300 is distributed by Enser.
  • Between RepRap, the V Flash, and SolidPro300 comes to the Makerbot Cupcake CNC. Makerbot sells a kit for the Cupcake CNC but the customer puts it together. Like RepRap, they also host a community called Thingverse. Though their community revolves more around the 3D models than the machine itself. They are also working on a 3D scanning kit.
  • HP has also recently announced that they are entering the market in an agreement with Stratysis who will produce mainstream 3D printers using Fused Deposition Modeling technology.

The above examples are just a small selection from a quickly developing marketplace, but they are a good indication of what home scanning technologies are just around the corner. Thanks for reading “Everything you always wanted to know about 3D scanning”, we hope it is has been an informative series!

Contact Australian Design & Drafting Services for more information..

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