When Bre Pettis unveiled MakerBot's Digitizer, you couldn't wipe the smile off his face. And, upon opening our own unit, it's easy to understand why. When you lift the plastic unit, swaddled in black foam, out of its cardboard box, you feel like you're stepping into the future. 3D scanning isn't exactly new, but the allure hasn't worn off yet. It's the missing ingredient in the Brooklyn-born company's ecosystem. Its printers have improved in leaps and bounds since it first started shipping the Cupcake CNC as a kit back in 2009, it finally has a user-friendly software suite in MakerWare and Thingiverse provides a vast repository of designs for people to download and print. But until now there has been no easy, affordable way for users to turn the objects they already own into printable 3D models. Of course, "affordable" is a relative term. At $1,400 the Digitizer isn't exactly an impulse purchase, but it's certainly cheaper than comparable systems.
And what qualifies as a "comparable" system? Well, we're talking about desktop scanners that capture a full 360 degrees, are largely hands-off and self-contained (i.e., not a DIY kit built around a Kinect or smartphone). That means the Digitizer is actually entering a rather sparsely populated field. The big questions though, are how does it fits into the MakerBot universe and, more importantly, the life of the DIY enthusiast? Does the Digitizer do as advertised and turn your pile of doodads into easily replicateable digital files? You know where to look for answers, after the break.