Monday, December 20, 2010

Everything You Always Wanted to Know . . . Desktop Scanning and Manufacturing

Chapter 10, Part 1: The Future - Desktop 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 favorite 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 airplane 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. eMicroscibe 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 desk top 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 current 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 web cam to collect data and create a color 3D model.
* David Laser Scanner offers a kit to build your own basic scanning system using every day objects like a web cam and hand held laser pointer.
* Perhaps the ultimate in DIY scanners, Friederich Kirschner used Legos, a webcam and some milk to create 3D models.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this chapter- Desktop Manufacturing. If you have any questions about desktop scanning equipment, like the Microscribe, feel free to contact Direct Dimensions. We're happy to answer any questions.