The Fuel3D Scanner: Taking the Bull by the Horns

With the release of the Makerbot Digitizer and the wildly successful Kickstarter campaign for the Fuel3D scanner, some folks might wonder what the difference between the two are. So, the Fuel3D people have posted a blog post about what makes their product better… er – different. Here, according to the makers of Fuel3D, are the things that distinguish the two devices:

The biggest difference between the two is that the Digitizer is a desktop turntable, while the Fueld3D is a handheld, point-and-shoot 3D camera.  So, you can place an object up to 8 inin size onto the platform of the Makerbot Digitizer and it will perform a seamless 360 degree scan, as the object rotates in front of the scanner.  The Fuel3D is handheld, however, meaning that you take 3D snapshots of an object and sew it together in post-production (See video below), making it so that an object’s size is not a factor.

MeshUP: Manual Stitching from Uformia on Vimeo.

The Fuel3D team also states that, with a max resolution of .25mm, their scanner can capture twice the detail of the Digitizer, with its .5mm resolution, and that its scans are more accurate.  As the Digitizer has been developed to work specifically with the Makerbot Replicator 2, and more generally with other 3D printers the Digitizer doesn’t record colour because, at this stage, Makerbot machines can’t print in full colour.  Because the Fuel3D scanner is meant to be used for things like video game development, art and animation, in addition to 3D printing, it captures colour as well.  Below, based on the two companies’ marketing materials, you may be able to see a difference in terms of scan resolution:

sunflower Scan by Fuel3D Scanner
The Fuel3D claims to have a higher resolution and boasts color scanning.
digitizer 3D Scan MakerBot
The Makerbot Digitizer offers full 360, colorless scanning.

Finally, Fuel3D makes the point that, while the Digitizer will be available in October and their scanner won’t be shipped until mid-next year, it can be purchased at a much lower price tag with the Digitizer running at $1400 and the Fuel 3D going for $990 via its Kickstarter campaign. The RRP will rise once the campaign ends, mind you.

With my limited 3D modeling skill, the biggest factor for me is that of post-production.  After using MeshLab to (attempt to) stitch together objects captured with a Microsoft Kinect or using Autodesk’s 123D Catch app to (attempt to) render a 3D model with my phone, it’s become essential to me that, whatever scanner I can get my hands on make it easy to go from scan to print.  If Fuel3D’s software can streamline that process, then, thanks to the ability to capture items of limitless scale, they may take the scanning cake.