3D scanners are an increasingly popular tool for anyone to quickly create designs for a 3D printer. Instead of laboriously building a model in a software program, you can just scan a physical object and print the resulting digital file.
Volumental, a Stockholm-based startup founded last year, is taking that process to the cloud with its Scan-to-Print web app. Users scan an object with a depth camera, such as a Kinect, and watch as it loads automatically in their browser. A little more than halfway through its funding period, the project has successfully reached its goal of $20,000 on Kickstarter.
Volumental is emphasizing that you could use its app to create the ever-popular 3D printed model of your own head. But you can really print anything at which you can aim a camera. The resulting models look to be of lower quality than rival scanners, most of which are a platform on which you set an object or a camera-like device that you aim. A depth camera would be more discrete and potentially easier to use for people familiar with similar technology.
It would also cost less. Volumental does not say if the app will cost anything, but the Kickstarter page indicates they will charge for each download of a model. A $100 Kinect or $200 Volumental-made depth camera is cheaper than the alternative scanners, but paying for each download could lead to higher longterm costs.
Professional 3D scanners generally cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. But options that cost less than $1,000, including the Matterform, CADScan and Fuel3D, have been popping up on crowdfunding sites all year. MakerBot will launch a desktop scanner this week.
Volumental will use the Kickstarter funds to hire a developer and upgrade its server and processing software. It expects to grant backers access to the beta version of the app in January 2014. Backers who bought a depth camera will also receive their shipment in January.
Volumental and Fuel3D are bringing us some of the smallest 3D scanners yet. Next, I’d like to see more scanners that make use of existing webcams. They’ve cropped up in the past, but have yet to hit mainstream success among 3D printer owners.