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MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis.

MakerBot announced today it’s developing the Digitizer, a long-in-the-works desktop 3D scanner that will complement its line of 3D printers. MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis made the announcement at Austin’s SXSW Interactive.

“It’s a natural progression for us to create a product that makes 3D printing even easier,” Bre said in a statement. “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.”

The scanner is not yet ready for prime time. MakerBot is still testing the prototype. No word on the price or when makers can get their hands on one. MakerBot will start taking orders in the fall.

The scanner consists of a turntable on which you mount objects you wish to scan. Lasers and cameras translate that object into a digital files. Bre said the scanner will be ideal for archiving, prototyping, replicating, and digitizing prototypes, models, parts, artifacts, artwork, jewelry, and other objects.

“If something gets broken, you can print it again.”

Image of the Digitizer from Bre's SXSW talk, via Engadget. They're back to lasercut plywood!

Image of the Digitizer prototype from Bre’s SXSW talk. [via Engadget]

While there is a growing library of consumer-class 3D and CAD software, creating 3D models takes skill and practice. The Digitizer aims to make 3D printing easier, delivering the much sought-after “washer/dryer” combination for 3D printing.

While he hadn’t seen the Digitizer yet, Kerry Stevenson, who writes the popular Fabbaloo 3D printing blog, was excited by the news.

“It solves the problem of uploading a design,” he said. “The magic is getting the design and being able to push it out into the printer. It should enable a household owner to print more things–things that are more useful to them.”

Matt Griffin, former community manager for MakerBot and now Adafruit Industry’s director of community support and evangelism, said the new device will be attractive because it “closes the gap” between creating 3D files and printing out physical objects.

“The scanner is for people who want to get their hands dirty and have an intuitive experience,” he said.

We’ll have more on this story in the days to come.

This post has been updated

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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