The 3-D printing movement is huge. A quick Google News search yields articles just from the past week debating the morals of 3-D printed guns, looking at a man who has a 3-D printed face, and the announcement of a new magazine focusing solely on 3-D printing.
But most people don’t own the pricey desktop 3-D printing setups that can scan physical objects into 3-D models and then spit out plastic objects based on computer-generated designs. A decent printer costs over $2,000, and a quality 3-D scanner costs even more. Two former advertising executives have come up with a solution to half of the equation: a relatively cheap, high-quality 3-D scanner.
Inventors Drew Cox and Adam Brandejs took a long and winding path to 3-D scanner-making: Brandejs has a background in sculpture and web development (mainly for big brands), while Cox spent years as an advertising art director. The pair met in the advertising world.
"[Adam] was getting me into 3-D printing when it first came out," says Cox. But the pair soon ran into the price barriers that hinder so many 3-D printing enthusiasts. "We decided we wanted to build a 3-D scanner for ourselves, more for just prototyping things. As we got further along, we decided maybe it was something everyone else would want as well," explains Brandejs. In practical terms, having access to a 3-D scanner and printer means that you could, say, print out that wrench you need immediately instead of going to the store. Or you could print out a missing piece for a gadget you’re designing.
The list goes on.
It only took a few weeks for Cox and Brandejs to build a duct-taped scanner made with spare parts. But the inventors decided to take their prototype a step further, and a year later, the slick Photon 3-D scanner is available for pre-order on Indiegogo at the eminently reasonable price of $599 (the first backers scored the scanner for $349). In comparison, the popularNextEngine scanner costs $2,995.
The Photon scans objects up to 190mm x 190mm x 250mm in three minutes. It’s not quite as high-quality as the NextEngine, but it’s close. We’'re still refining the machine, but on paper we’re getting 0.2 millimeter accuracy resolution and NextEngine gets 0.12," says Cox.
At the time of writing, the Photon has raised $407,895 on Indiegogo, with over 800 pre-orders already requested. The early backers should get their printers in July; if you order now, you’ll get the device in November. And if you’re looking for a 3-D printer to go along with that scanner? Check out the $850 Bukobot, now taking pre-orders. Makerbot is also working on an affordable 3-D scanner, but the company hasn’t yet announced a price.