In 2011, two men set out to make desktop 3D scanning as easy as pushing of the button. With a bond formed through a shared interest in 3D modeling and image processing, the UK-based Alastair Buchanan and Tony Rhoades created a fully working prototype that became CADScan 3D, a desktop 3D scanner and software that creates a full 3D mesh for less than $1,000.
To develop the prototype, Buchanan and Rhoades secured a grant from the Technology Strategy Board, a government funded body that promotes innovation and technology in the U.K. The grant helped bring the product into its current pre-production form. That’s when crowd-sourcing website Kickstarter looked like a good option for the next step in development, production.
“In just two weeks the exposure we've had to customers and distributors has been far in excess of what we could have managed in that time on our own,” says Buchanan. “We feel [the Kickstarter campaign] has been the right decision so far.”
CADScan is the latest product launch that has turned to Kickstarter.com to help bring a new product to market. Launched on February 12, 2013, the 3D scanning system has raised more than $80,000 from backers. Buchanan was hoping to raise about $120,000 ($122,024 with the pound to dollar conversion), but with 24 days remaining it appears as though CADScan is set to far exceed expectations.
The system can scan objects up to 25 x 25 x 25 cm (10” x 10” x 10”) and uses patent-pending optical scanning technology to create high quality, full color models in .STL, .PY, and .OBJ formats, as both meshes and raw point clouds.
“The key to the scanner is our patent-pending scanning technology,” says Alastair Buchanan. “This is what has helped us hit such a low price point. Invariably, there are some limitations as we strive to balance conflicting design requirements with a need to make the system easy-to-use, but we see this as something that will improve with future iterations of the product and technology.”
According to the company, a typical scan takes about five minutes, but the time is dependent upon the size of the object as well as the available computing power. The system resolution is 0.2 mm (0.08”), when close to the center of the turntable, and the resolution improves as objects are closer to the scanner head – larger objects result in more precise scans. The scanner connects via USB and will be supported on both Mac and Windows in time for the production launch — at the moment; the prototype software isn’t compatible with Apple products.
The scan produces a watertight, 3D mesh by combining multiple surface and profile measurements as the object rotates on the turntable.
CADScan’s target audience ranges from engineers and CAD designers to makers and hobbyists.
“Engineers and designers are a natural market for this kind of product, particularly at this price point,” says Buchanan. “Unless you have several thousands of dollars to spend, you’re stuck with measuring or hand crafting 3D models.”
On the consumer side, the scanner’s simplicity makes it a realistic option for the hobbyist community. Buchanan adds, “We see the scanner as making 3D accessible to a much wider community than it has been until now. After all, a 3D printer is all well and good, but you need to create a model in some kind of CAD system in order to print it.”
The co-founder also notes that the scanner is also applicable to 3D artists and video game designers that can use it to generate models suitable for animation.
It doesn’t take much to support the product launch. Backers can pledge as little as $7 for a thank you on the CADScan website or $30 for an Andy Warhol-inspired t-shirt, but for a little more than $1,000 (the $900 level quickly sold out) backers will receive a 3D scanner in white ABS. The company offers many other levels that range up to $1,500, in which backers can receive limited edition scanners in piano black and custom color choices. Of course, if you’re looking for a 3D scanner as well as a trip to England, you can be wined and dined by the CADScan team for about $7,500 – they’ll even hand over the scanner in person (though the extra baggage fee likely isn’t included).
While the company still has some small refinements to make to the pre-production prototype, Buchanan and Rhoades are currently working with manufacturing and assembly plants, and remain confident that they’ll be able to deliver on schedule.
Back CADScan 3D on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/621838643/desktop-3d-scanner.