MakerBot unveils prototype Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner, promises easier 3D printing

Well, that was quick. Bre Pettis just started delivering South By Southwest's opening remarks and may well have taken the wraps off the biggest news of the show. Of course, we'll still have to hang out in Austin for a few more days just to, you know, totally make sure, but this really does feel like a doozy. As the MakerBot CEO puts it, "It's a natural progression for us to create a product that makes 3D printing even easier" -- but, let's be honest, few of those who don't have a vested interest in moving some 3D printers are running around calling the whole process particularly "easy." And while consumer-facing devices like the Replicator, CubeX, Solidoodle, et al. have gone a ways toward making the technology more accessible for laypeople, there's still a fundamental breakdown: the creation of models to be printed.

The maker community has helped on that front, as well, with MakerBot's Thingiverse serving as an unparalleled resource for 3D images, meaning that, once your printer's all set up and calibrated, you can download and print to your heart's delight -- but what if, say, you want to print up something that some kindly soul hasn't designed for you? You could learn a CAD program -- or you could invest in an industrial 3D scanner. The latter option has lead to something of a land rush of companies and individuals looking to break things wide open with an affordable, consumer-facing offering. And while MakerBot still seems a ways away from the final product, the company used SXSW as a platform to unveil a prototype of its MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner.

The product certainly falls in line with Pettis' utopian dreams of the "next industrial revolution," which he excitedly evangelized during our chat at CES. As he puts it, "With the MakerBot Digitizer, now everyone will be able to scan a physical item, digitize it and print it in 3D -- with little or no design experience." Lasers and cameras built into the device scan an object, convert it into a digital file and then you print it. Or so the idea goes. Naturally, it's a bit early to get too excited, as this is still a prototype -- at the very least, however, it's certainly a promising turn to see a company that's such a force in helping to mainstream 3D printing throw its hat into the scanning ring.

We're getting ready to spend some time with the device here in Austin -- and will be speaking with Pettis about the prototype. We'll follow up with you when we get some more answers. In the meantime, there's a 2D press release for you to scan.

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MakerBot® Wants to Know: What Will You Digitize?

MakerBot® surprised the world today with a major announcement at SXSW Interactive announcing development of a new MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner prototype. The MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner adds to MakerBot's 3D Ecosystem that includes MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers,, MakerWare, MakerCare, and the apps inside Thingiverse, including the popular Customizer app. Now, with the announcement that MakerBot is developing a MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner, MakerBot wants to know – what will you digitize?

The MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner shown at SXSW is a prototype model and MakerBot will spend time testing, scanning, and printing in 3D the items scanned with it.

"We are super excited to be able to announce at SXSW Interactive that we are developing the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner," said Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot. "It's a natural progression for us to create a product that makes 3D printing even easier. With the MakerBot Digitizer, now everyone will be able to scan a physical item, digitize it, and print it in 3D – with little or no design experience."

MakerBot, the global leader in 3D printing, is believed to be the only company to ever announce a physical hardware product at SXSW Interactive. Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, first announced MakerBot's very first generation 3D printer, the Cupcake CNC desktop 3D printer, four years ago while at SXSW in Austin. MakerBot released its fourth generation desktop 3D printer last fall with the introduction of the MakerBot® Replicator® 2 Desktop 3D Printer, and its sibling this January, the MakerBot® Replicator® 2X Experimental 3D Printer, at CES 2013.

This year, Pettis delivered the Opening Remarks for SXSW and delighted SXSW Interactive attendees with the announcement that MakerBot will develop and market a companion to MakerBot's Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer, the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner.

Pettis noted, "The MakerBot Digitizer is an innovative new way to take a physical object, scan it, and create a digital file – without any design, CAD software or 3D modeling experience at all – and then print the item again and again on a MakerBot Replicator 2 or 2X Desktop 3D Printer."

This exciting new technology uses lasers and cameras to replicate physical objects into a digital form and file.

"This is something you would envision being a piece of fiction, but in fact, it is real – and it is so cool," Pettis went on to note. "The MakerBot Digitizer is a great tool for archiving, prototyping, replicating, and digitizing prototypes, models, parts, artifacts, artwork, sculptures, clay figures, jewelry, etc. If something gets broken, you can print it again."

MakerBot anticipates that the MakerBot Digitizer will be used mostly by those who have dreamed of being able to scan a physical object and then print it in 3D. MakerBot sees the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner being used in businesses, universities, classrooms, and in the home where anything 3D can be digitized and reproduced at will.

MakerBot expects the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner will set the standard in 3D scanning and fill out MakerBot's Ecosystem of products surrounding 3D printing.