Gadgets

MakerBot's $1,400 3D scanner fills the gaps in its fledging 3D printing ecosystem

MakerBot may be known for printing 3D objects, but it also wants a hand in scanning them as well.

The company today is finally giving more details about the Digitizer, the $1,400 3D scanner it originally announced back in March.

With the device, designers can take physical objects and turn them into digital files. “You put something on the turntable, and it turns. Lasers shoot out, and your physical model turns into a digital design,” MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis says in the video above, describing the 12-minute scanning process.

That process, which is an exact reversal of the one with MakerBot’s 3D printers, is essential to the company’s mission to capture the entire 3D design workflow. If the Replicator marks the end point of a 3D design, the Digitizer marks the beginning.

In fact, in MakerBot’s ideal world, anyone who scans objects with the Digitizer would also print objects with the Replicator and share designs via Thingiverse. The device is about more than just scanning —  it’s about the entire ecosystem.

This strategy also fits well into the larger one being pushed by 3D printing giant Stratasys, which acquired MakerBot back in June. In an interview shortly after the announcement, Stratasys CEO David Reis said that it was his company’s mission to let 3D designers buy from one company everything they needed — including consumer 3D printers.

But as interesting as MakerBot’s foray into 3D scanning is, it could also open up a very large can of worms for the company — particularly in matters of intellectual property.

How does MakerBot answer the Digitizer’s copyright question? By not really answering it all. “The MakerBot Digitizer is a new technology in a new frontier,” the company says the FAQ for the Digitizer, pointing to recent whitepapers published by PublicKnowledge.

In other words, MakerBot has no idea how IP owners are going to respond to the digitizer. But something tells me it’s going to find out soon enough.


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