The line between computers and reality has been blurred. We have murders committed because of World of Warcraft, Second Life romances (an activity normally reserved for the three dimensional world), and now there’s a way to turn any real-life object into a computer model. Yes, the NextEngine 3D Scanner does just what it’s name implies. It scans any object with a bunch of lasers and makes it into a fully workable CAD assembly right on the computer screen. We’ve seen 3D printers and Claytronics here on the Hub but, with the NextEngine now on sale, reverse engineering will never be the same again.
The idea behind it is fairly simple. Well, as simple as one can get when lasers are involved. The laser scans the object and takes a 3D snapshot of the face, employing the devilishly tricky wave-particle duality theories to get 400 data samples per square inch. The computer then automatically takes the data points and strings them together to make a 3D computer model that is easily imported into other CAD software.
Depending on how big the item is, a couple of scans at different angles might be required. That might sound daunting but, with the visual editing software that comes bundled with the package, it’s a cinch. What, you say? Too lazy to go through and put your own 3D scans together into one image? Then sit back and let the AutoPositioner automatically move the sample. No, serious. It’s pretty neat. Check it out in the video below.
NextEngine says it takes about two minutes to complete a scan and that about 12 scans will get an article fully scanned. Call it about a half hour to cheat reality? That seems like a win for NextEngine. They also claim that, at a price of only $3000, their scanner can operate better than the competition at a tenth of the cost to the consumer. Things just seem to be getting better for the company. They’ve even got Jay Leno on their case. Check that out below as he scans a broken part and creates a new one out of plastic using a 3D printer. The scan is so good that they even scanned an adjustable wrench and, after printing it out in plastic, it was fully workable.
3D printing has been around for quite a while, but this type of scanning is not as old hat. But it is yet another way that humans can interact with computers and bring the two worlds closer together. That pairing of man and machine is exactly what the future holds. So, there’s no brain-interlink to make it so the user no longer needs to press buttons. Who cares? This scanner can turn the tangible into the digital.
Combining the 3D scanning technologies with 3D printing allows for objects to flow freely between the real world and that of computers in ways that only thoughts and ideas could flow previously. Yes, parts have been designed on the computer and fabricated in real life for quite some time now, but this is the beginning of an age where anybody can bring a 3D object into their computer, edit it to suit their needs, and print it back out in a fully functioning form. 3D printing might not be perfect yet, but it seems that 3D scanning is already getting there.