Gadget Buddies: 3D Prototyping

Gadget Buddies: 3D Prototyping

By Imran Khan

By now most of us have used a document scanner at least once in our computer-based life times. It is a convenient tool, allowing you to save a document to soft copy in case your hard copies get lost. It was all good and well, but it was a little boring, with just the two dimensions. So we went in search of the next big thing in scanning and printing.

Makerbot, a company founded in 2009 started off by making 3D printers as part of their core business. Their first systems were crude and in a “do it yourself” focused design. Off course once they hit the market with 3D printing, technology industries began firing away at developing this technology further. What 3D printing offers is a platform for designers and prototype makers to bring their computer generated models into the real world and it’s as simple as clicking print. The days of hours in the machine shop making a prototype is now a thing of the past. After the user generates their model on say Solid Works drawing, they can send it off to the 3D printer. The printer then starts up by building up the model using extruded plastic, either going line by line or laying one dot at a time of material till the model is built up.

The problem is, not everyone is interested in going into computer drafting to replicate an object. Makerbot has the answer again. They have researched and developed a 3D scanner. Yes, we are getting closer to that star trek saying “Beam me up Scottie”. The scanner is super simple. Users place their object on the scanner plate and press scan.

Once that button is pressed the unit begins to scan and plot every nook and cranny of the model as a data coordinate. This data is deciphered by the software and the next thing you see is the full 3D model of the real object on your computer screen. What is even more impressive is that now that you have this digital model, you can edit it and fool around with geometry as you please. Once you have had enough fun with that, you can click print and print your creation as a full 3 dimensional object.
This is an exciting piece of technology that shortens design and prototype time substantially. Exciting times ahead folks!

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