We’re officially living in the Jetson’s/Jimmy Neutron world. Makerbot unveiled today a device called the “digitizer” which makes replicating any object as simple as putting it on the platform, pressing a button, and sending it to the printer. If you enjoy this article (which you will), subscribe to our free newsletter (form on the right), and stay current on the coolest, latest technology.
The technology behind the digitizer isn’t new; For decades, auto manufacturers have been using similar machines, some of which can scan and print metal, with accuracy to the Micron. We’ve even covered a device that can print books on demand. What’s amazing about the digitizer is that it brings instant replicating within the reaches of the hobbyists, if not the masses.
Note/Clarification (12:02): Some readers commented on the use of “instantaneous” in the title. It’s all about frame of reference. Just as 3D printer use for product design is known as “rapid manufacturing”, I can refer to the replicator as “instantaneous”, because compared to the alternative, it is near instantaneous. 12 minutes, compared to the hours such objects would take in a CAD program.
Just as the computer went from corporate machine, to hobbyist machine, to mainstream, 3D printing, scanning, and replicating has been getting more and more mainstream at a rapid pace. Once a device that cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, 3D printing and rapid prototyping devices can now be had for as little as $300.
The digitizer runs for $1400. If you’d like a digitizer to scan items, and a printer to print replicas, the combination of a Makerbot Digitizer and Replicater 2 will set you back $3600.
How It Works
Items are placed onto a spinning platform, like the tray in your microwave. The digitizer then uses two targeted lasers, and a 1.2 megapixel camera to scan your object as it rotates, capturing the detail and shape of it. Makerbot’s software then analyzes the data from the Digitizer, creating a 3D file from the scanning. According to Makerbot, it takes two clicks, total, and around 12 minutes.
From there, you can perfect your object in a 3D object software like Autodesk Inventor, edit it, or print it right from the file generated by Digitizer. Just like scanning and printing any regular document.
Why It’s Cool
Think of the possibilities for this technology in the future, as printing becomes faster and less expensive. Running out of plastic forks and knives? Just scan, and print a few. Lost a few pawns on your chessboard? Scan one of the remaining ones, and print a few.
Knowing how to design in CAD (computer-aided-design) software is no longer a necessity! If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to our free newsletter (form on the right), and stay current on the coolest, latest technology.
Do you own, or use a 3D printer? Leave a comment.
It was supposed to be huge. NFC was hailed as a “holy grail” in a 2011 PC World article. Credit card companies, startups, technology companies, and smartphone manufacturers rushed to build technologies around it, but it fell (almost) flat.
NFC – technology that allows for your smartphone to interact with everyday object wirelessly- was simply too confusing for new users. Apple was berated for not including it in the latest iphone, for the past two generations, but it seems that it may have been the right move. NFC simply wasn’t ready for primetime. Will 2014 be the year that NFC becomes as big as bluetooth? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments.
Will 2014 Be The Year Of NFC?
NFC has stagnated despite the hype, but things are about to change. Millions of Android smartphones are equipped with the technology now, though very few users yet make use of it. In addition, Apple is likely to include the technology in this year’s iPhones, coming soon, and it’s finally finding a footing in banking thanks to Google’s Wallet payment service. Speaking of banking, Google is seriously banking on NFC, investing in new NFC-based services, and building it into all of their phones.
Google’s Motorola division also just unveiled its new flagship phone, the Moto X, which makes use of NFC for security purposes. By attaching NFC chips, or “tags” to clothing, wallets, or bags, users identify themselves. On the Moto X, if a user’s tag is detected within a close proximity of the X phone, the phone will be unlocked and available, while if users so choose, the phone will require a password when out of range. This prevents theft and fraud, while avoiding the hassle of constantly having to type in a passcode to use your phone. The Moto X system is the first phone to rely on NFC for security (and really anything at all), and will be released in a few months (the phone itself will be on sale sooner).
Beyond the Moto X itself, Google’s use of the service shows a renewed confidence in NFC. Google’s devices are meant to serve as examples for the industry, introducing new technologies, along with new versions of their Android OS. Because of this trendsetting nature, competitors like Apple, Samsung, LG, and HTC will likely unveil new technologies based off of NFC as well.
This month’s featured startup has an idea that I’m surprised we haven’t seen executed until now. The company is fast fig, and the product is a cloud-based math word processor. They’ve basically applied the Google docs model to math, making typing equations as simple as writing a sentence, and making math available anywhere.
Problems and equations automatically format, and literally solve themselves as you type, serving as a handy tool for checking work.
In its’ current state, applications are limited to math tests, problems, and other educational uses, but I see a lot of potential in the technology they’ve already developed to do more than education.
If they build in the correct templates, I could see this having financial applications, family budgeting, and many other math applications. They’ve already built in features for engineers (who I can attest, need to deal with a lot of numbers- dimensions, costs, standard deviations, etc.) and the platform can definitely handle these other uses.
It could use a few more templates, but the technology already in place at Fast fig is pretty incredible, and I’d highly recommend giving it a try for yourself. It’s free to sign up, and you can check it out here.