Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

CADScan3D desktop scanner generates accurate full-color virtual models


February 14, 2013

CADScan3D co-founder Alastair Buchanan shows off his desktop 3D scanner

CADScan3D co-founder Alastair Buchanan shows off his desktop 3D scanner

Image Gallery (9 images)

Computer models are typically created by specialists using dedicated CAD software or animation packages. The more detailed the object, the more time and experience it takes to make it. One shortcut would be to scan a real life version of the desired object (if it exists), but 3D scanners are generally expensive, bulky machines that aren't practical for the average person. The advent of affordable, desktop-sized 3D scanners like the CADScan3D could change all that – and presents troubling legal issues for the growing maker movement.

Generating object data with the CADScan3D scanner – which appeared on Kickstarter earlier this week – is as simple as it gets. You place an object on the turntable, press a button, and it rotates while two scanning heads (one on top and another on the side) get to work. The result is an accurate, full-color 3D object. You can scan anything that will fit inside the 25-cubic centimeter (9.84-inch) volume, with a resolution up to 0.2 mm.

The process is so simple that you don't need any special training. The scan data doesn't need to be calibrated, aligned, or post-processed in any way. CADScan, the Chester, UK company behind the scanner, says it "is perfect for reverse engineering, prototype development, building databases of 3D objects, object replication, generating 3D virtual world content."

Not too shabby, considering the CADScan3D costs £699 (US$1,085), a bit more than the David-laserscanner, and about one-third that of NextEngine's solution (which it claims is the world's most popular 3D scanner).

Opening Pandora's box

Combined with a 3D printer, CADScan's unassuming little scanner raises some significant issues. Suddenly anyone can scan, digitize, upload, download, share, and print all sorts of real world objects – truly mind-blowing stuff. Makers are already doing that to some extent, but their prints are limited to a relatively small pool of objects. As 3D scanners get out into the wild, that pool will grow into an ocean of available objects – including products you'd normally have to purchase.

Currently, the CADScan3D fits only smaller objects, but this is just the beginning. As the technology matures, and with increased competition in the coming years, the fidelity of the scan data and 3D prints will gradually improve. It may become hard (if not impossible) to tell the difference between an original and a copy. To put it bluntly, if you think counterfeit goods are a problem today you ain't seen nothing yet.

And while it's clearly going to have a major impact on retail goods, it will affect other industries, too. It could, for example, facilitate the creation of props and set details in games and film, allowing artists to focus on more important details. Already a form of 3D scanning called Performance Capture has been used to great effect in movies and games such as L.A. Noire, but generally speaking these industries have only just begun to explore the possibilities of this technology.

You can see the CADScan3D scanner demonstrated in the following video.

Source: CADScan, Kickstarter via 3ders

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

"No post processing"... I find this very hard to believe, as does anyone else that has ever used a desktop 3D scanner.

How about a video showing EXACTLY what you get, in great detail, just after you click the "scan" button? I think a video like that would make this product much more believable.


Agree with Milton.

This is great if it does what they claim.

Racqia Dvorak

@Milton and @Racqia Dvorak. Yes, but as the writer of this piece says, the likelihood is that it will get easier and easier to obtain an accurate copy. When that does become reality and it may not be far off, there will be some serious issues, and not just legal either. Safety will be problematic when a fake piece is either sold as a whole, or even more subversively, as a part or parts of a larger item and hidden from view. There will be some great things that come out of this tech, but plenty of problems too.


What about Linux support?

Kris Lee

While I think there are certainly going to be legal issues, it seems fatalistic to focus on that aspect of such an amazing technology. Instead of worrying about litigating the world into a haze, the possibility for less shipping and thus cost of goods, less manufacturing pollution and waste, enhanced creative input on goods from consumers and better tested, safer products through inexpensive prototyping seem just a few of the factors outweighing the thought of someone spending hours duplicating little screws to make a fake Rolex.

Imagine a world where you pay for the design of a good and make it locally. When you're done, you recycle it and make something else. Instead of warehousing and shipping items you get the benefit of having product as easily as buying an app online.

People will pirate, fake and steal - but there will never be a replacement for brand marketing or lifestyle. Ask anyone who wants a GoPro camera instead of one of the myriad "cheap" fakes in the world. People want the real McCoy because it's usually better and is brought into the world through thoughtful, creative innovation rather than mere duplication.


@aeronick: your response is typical of the 'low-end' 3D printer hype blogosphere. This article is about a scanner, not a printer; different, though related conversation - still different.

In general: As for this device, along with all technology in this sector, you get what you pay for, it's as simple as that. I take the "up to .2mm" accuracy statement as - when scanning a flat plane, it can get within .2mm, which isn't very accurate for anything other than organics or game pieces, considering the envelope limit. That is certainly not close enough for reverse engineering any mechanical manufactured object. Not to mention reverse engineering comes with a considerable software investment and the expertise to pull it off correctly.

From a still higher level that encompasses all these low end devices and several higher end devices ($80K+), there is much to be done with data points collected to make it usable. Fine that there is a piece of hardware to capture whatever point cloud it can capture, but post-processing is where the rubber meets the road. I can capture data points with a webcam and a laser pointer, but that says nothing to what I want to digitally replicate at the end of my process - the deliverable, a robust and usable digital model.

There are some freeware softwares out there that can do the post processing, but again, the quality of what you get is directly tied to what you invest in it. Software capable of effectively processing point cloud/scan to a production quality level starts at around a $5K price point.

Having processed a multitude of these "low-end" scanner outputs and dealt with several people who have purchased them, I find that people with a hobbyist mentality do well with these devices. People looking for something that "fits" or accuracy, end up shopping at the next tier and beyond to fulfill their expectations.

I think it's great that more devices are available to the average consumer, it's good for this industry sector in general. But like the 3D printer story; you get what you pay for and that message is often lost in these tech blogs. Low end devices do not produce high end results, the hobbyist/consumer is often misled to believe that when reading these types of tech articles. Unfortunately, most of the blog writers in the tech sphere are also inexperienced when it comes to what is really going on, what it really takes to get the job done and unwittingly contribute to the flood of misinformation in this sector as of late.

Bottom line: great little desktop conversation device to produce "something" from scanned widgets, fun for hobbyists. Just don't try to convince people that sub-20K devices can produce an output held to a usable tolerance with a single button push and no post processing expertise - not happening. The analog is; a car under 10K that drives and parks itself.

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles