3D Printers

Makerbot's Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner – Now Ready, Willing & Available

Six months on from its unveiling at SXSW, and the Makerbot Digitizer Desktop 3D scanner is hitting the streets in a form barely recognizable from the prototype introduced to the world in March.

Makerbot’s regular updates since that time have seen this product evolve into a sleek, tightly branded product that “builds out the Makerbot 3D ecosystem.” That’s according to CEO, Bre Pettis, in the video message he has put out with this product release. It’s also a chosen phrase in the accompanying marketing material. Indeed, the growing Makerbot marketing team forewarned the world that this week was the week in their recent newsletter, following the pre-announcement announcement trend; and, true to their word, today the company has confirmed that the Digitizer is available to order from its online store. No word on when it will be available in store in New York, or delivery times.

The Digitizer scanner — proudly made in the USA — has been designed and developed to fully complement the Replicator 2 3D printer in every way — physically and practically — and provide a quick and easy gateway to desktop creativity. I think its ease of use will be its main selling point actually. But this is an entry level tool, the intention is to provide access to 3D scanning for people that would otherwise be priced or frightened out of the market.

According to Makerbot, this is what the Digitizer can do:

  • run on our simple, yet sophisticated software [included] that creates clean, watertight 3D models with just two clicks
  • turn physical objects into 3D digital design files in approximately 12 minutes
  • output a standard 3D model file format (STL) [that] can be modified and improved in third-party 3D modeling programs, like Autodesk’s free software MeshMixer
  • work seamlessly with MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printers to let you make your freshly scanned models
  • allow easy upload of scans to Thingiverse.com
  • [eliminates] need [for] design skills, 3D modeling, or CAD expertise to get started.

But they do also state what it can’t do, well, sort of, saying: “Expectations should be realistic. You will not be able to, for example, scan a hamburger and then eat the digital design. Expectations for precision should be realistic, too. The MakerBot Digitizer is not ideal for engineers who require very high precision scanning. If you need a realistic reproduction of the tiny features on an insect’s body, the MakerBot Digitizer is not the tool for you.”

As stated, the Digitizer has specifically been developed to work seamlessly with Makerbot’s own 3D printers and software, however, the STL output does mean that it can be used with other 3D printers too. But if you’re not a die hard Makerbot fan, you must surely be also looking at the Fuel3D scanner, currently well past its funding goal on Kickstarter.

Some of the key specs of the Digitizer are listed as follows:

Scan size: 
Up to 20.3 (diameter) x 20.3 cm (H)

Dimensional accuracy: 
± 2.0 mm

Detail resolution: 
0.5 mm

Triangles per 3D model
: Approx. 200K

Scan speed
: Approx. 12 minutes

Steps per rotation
: 800

Maximum weight on turntable
: 3 kg

Included Software
: MakerWare

Exported File Types: 

Operating Systems
: Windows (7+)
 / Mac OSX (10.7+)
 / Linux (Ubuntu 12.04+)

: Two eye-safe Class 1 laser line generators

: 1.3 megapixel CMOS image sensor

Bre’s video message (check it out below) made me smile though — his signature smile (and black shirt) together with his ebullient personality used to great effect. Honestly, if you google images of the man, 99% of his shirts are black and/or grey. I know, because I tried it. Sad, but true. There are, literally, a couple where he’s wearing primary colours, and one odd, brown tank top monster thing, but other than that his personal style now fits his company brand! Kinda works too. Oh, and if you do check out google images for yourself, make sure you use his full name — that was a brow raising minute or two as I corrected my mistake!