The 3D printing space seems to be hitting its stride of late. As we reported last week, Andreesen Horowitz are investing $30M in 3D printing company, Shapeways. While companies such as Shapeways cater to product designers, lowering the price point of these machines is essential to opening up the market to regular consumers. Makerbot offers 3D printers for a couple thousand dollars. And Mcor recently announced a new printer that uses layers of paper to obtain a finished 3D object, saving costs on materials. Startups such as Printrbot and Makibox hope to expand the market further by offering 3D printers below $500.
Nevertheless, learning how to use 3D modeling software and creating new designs is not for the faint of heart and is an obstacle to more mainstream adoption. So as affordable 3D printers proliferate, we may see a growing demand for 3D scanners, too, such as the one Matterform’s offering. Rather than having to create your own design, a 3D scanner would allow you to simply scan an existing physical object and then print out a copy.
While 3D scanners can currently run more than a couple thousand dollars to purchase, several players are working to manufacture low-cost scanners that even home users could purchase. For instance, Makerbot, has announced plans for a low-cost scanner sometime in the near future. Matterform, for its part, is charging C$599 for its Photon scanner via its crowdfunding campaign and has announced that shipments of the first units will happen by July or August.
Matterform’s Photon 3D scanner works by shooting dual laser lines at an object as it rotates while pictures are taken with an HD camera. The process takes about three minutes with a digital 3D model created on the computer. When not in use, it folds up into a compact case that can be stowed. According to cofounder Drew Cox, “this is the first 3D scanner that is affordable for the home consumer market.”
Its crowdfunding success notwithstanding, Matterform enters a market with existing competitors readying their own products for the same target market. The product design and prototype have certainly energized enough of a following to fund their first batch of products. The company’s eventual success will depend on how well they can build a sustainable business and stay competitive in this emerging space.