Digitizing sculptures with MakerBot

In August, MakerBot began accepting pre-orders for its new Digitizer 3D scanner which is expected to ship in October. The Digitizer is currently priced at $1,400, plus an optional $150 for MakerCare, a comprehensive service and support program.

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, MakerBot’s Digitizer allows users to quickly “transform” (scan) objects and items into 3D models that can be easily modified, shared and printed on 3D printers like the company’s Atmel-powered MakerBot Replicator 2.

Although Digitizer has yet to hit the streets, the MakerBot crew has already fashioned a number of new creations using the device, including figures based on famous sculptures, such as those found along the the Pont Neuf in Paris on a series of historic lampposts designed by Victor Baltard in 1854.

“Robert Steiner, our Chief Product Officer here at MakerBot, wanted to incorporate elements of these lampposts into a design for some furniture of his own. He sent pictures (above) off to a sculptor in the Philippines. A few months later these sculpts (below, left) arrived in the mail, but they were not great objects for casting into molds, as Robert had planned. He put them in a box and nearly forgot about them until we launched the Digitizer. Sensing an opportunity, he brought them into the office and the dolphin scanned beautifully,” MakerBot’s Bre Pettis wrote in a recent blog post.

“Plaster, due to its pale and textured surface, is a great material for scanning. The Digitizer software had no problem filling in the occlusion behind the lips. Plaster originals at left, Digitized and Replicated versions at right. Robert asked the sculptor to give Neptune an open mouth, in hopes of turning it into a fountain spout. The Neptune face didn’t scan well laying flat, so I attached some clay to the base to help it stand up straight. This gave his beard a trim, but now the printed version has a flat base to stand on.”

Meanwhile, MakerBot’s Kate Hannum noted that Thingiverse super user Dutch Mogul (aka Arian Croft) artfully remixed the company’s official MakerBot Gnome into a steampunk model dubbed Sir Occulum Tanberry.

“This little guy is ideal for gaming, as he retains his detail even at the 28mm gaming scale. You can easily print Sir Occulum Tanberry in halves or as one piece with supports. As is noted in the description, he looks especially at home next to the MakerBot Crystals,” said Hannum.

“3D scanning gives folks who aren’t expert 3D modelers an easy way to modify, improve, share, and 3D print. For people who are expert modelers like Arian, scanning provides a jumpstart to creating seriously awesome things. We can’t wait until Thingiverse is flush with exciting new remixes of scans from community members – beginners and experts alike!”

Indeed, the MakerBot Digitizer outputs standard 3D file formats, so Makers can improve, shape, mold, twist, animate and transform objects in a third-party 3D modeling program. There is no patching, stitching, or repairing required, so Makers are able to skip straight to the creative process. Adding one 3D model to another is easy, like putting a hat on top of a gnome. Plus, Makers can either scan a second object, or search for it on Thingiverse.com, scaling down and multiplying targeted objects to create charms or game pieces.

Additional information about MakerBot’s 3D printer lineup and Digitizer is available here.

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