The Photon project got started, co-inventor Adam Brandejs admitted, because “I’m just not that patient.”
Brandejs wanted to launch his 3D efforts fast, with a simple scan instead of laboring over micro measurements and CAD files.
So a little over a year ago, Brandejs and his more patient friend and collaborator, Drew Cox, began working on an affordable 3D scanner in a small industrial space in Toronto. That led to an Indiegogo campaign, which to their surprise has already quadrupled its $80,000 goal with two weeks to go. Almost as gratifying: the Photon has generated a flurry of proposed uses for the device beyond the original “maker hobbyist” market they were targeting.
“We clearly tapped into something,” Brandejs told MAKE earlier this week. “There’s something about an inexpensive scanner that has pushed a lot of people over the edge into 3D printing.”
More than 700 people so far. That’s how many have pledged at least $349 (the original offering price) to get the device this fall, the promised delivery date. (It’s still possible to reserve a Photon, for a November delivery, for $443.)
The Photon scanner uses a high definition camera and dual laser lines to capture 3D scans in as little as 3 minutes. The Photon can scan objects up to 190mm x 190mm x 250mm (7.5″ diameter x 9.75″ height). The scanned object data can then be output in the usual file formats (.STL, .OBJ, and point cloud .PLY), which can be imported for use on 3D printers or 3D modeling software. The Photon is also portable, designed to be folded up and put away when not in use.
Brandejs, 31, and Cox, 30, are both are long-time programmers and hackers with strong interests in hardware and sculpture. They met at a Toronto advertising agency. The Photon will be the first product from a new company they’ve formed, Matterform.
When MAKE talked with Brandejs and Cox, they said they were still making obsessive tweaks to Photon’s hardware and software. The success of the campaign has also caused them to modify their manufacturing plans: they now plan to outsource the unit’s injection molding and circuit board assembly to North American facilities instead of doing it themselves. They have also hired their first employee.
“There are things you can do in-house for 200 units that you can’t do for 700 units,” Brandejs said.
The Photon’s success has come despite some well-publicized competitors.
In March, just as Brandejs and Cox were planning their Indiegogo campaign, a UK group, CADScan, successfully raised roughly $150K on Kickstarter. Also in March, MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis announced that his company was working on a prototype “Digitizer” to complement its line of 3D printers.
The competition clearly didn’t dampen financial enthusiasm for their product. In fact, the publicity may have inspired more people to think about the possibilities of 3D scanning: from the artist who wants to experiment with the unit’s lasers, to a father who plans to use a Photon to copy his son’s temporary plasticine creations, to the mathematician who wants to use the unit to make physical representations of mathematical concepts that Brandejs and Cox admit they only dimly understand.
“We’re happy to see more companies doing this,” Brandejs said, “because it helps create hype and interest. The more people get into 3D scanning and printing, the better for everyone involved.”
Added Cox: “It turns out that the more attention the idea of 3D scanning gets out in the world, the more interesting ideas come back to us.”