It looks like the competition for the maker market is heating up. First, MakerBot and Autodesk have announced that they will team up to combine 3D printing software and hardware. Second, MakerBot announced its Digitizer 3D scanner. One could see this as a direct competitive move aimed at 3D Systems and its Cube and Cubify Capture product family.
One step at a time, vendors to the maker market are adding the tools needed to turn these low-cost 3D printers into fully useful devices. Will they compete with the professional 3D printing market? Not yet, at least not for users who must have very high quality printed parts for form, fit, and function. However, these developments in the maker market could lead to more interesting, and lower cost tools for the professional engineer.
The MakerBot and Autodesk announcement may not have much impact on professional users of 3D printers, even though the press release states that this development is for engineers, designers, architects, makers, creators, and artists. Autodesk 123D is really aimed at users unfamiliar with CAD programming.
The agreement between the two companies will entail the resale of MakerBot® Replicator® 2 Desktop 3D Printers in connection with Autodesk’s 123D membership offerings. The two companies will work together to help enable users to 3D print a model to their MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer after creating designs from within the 123D apps.
The Autodesk 123D family of apps—which includes 123D Catch, 123D Creature, 123D Design, and 123D Sculpt—lets users capture, design and make their ideas, and connect with other makers around the world for support or inspiration.
According to MakerBot, the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer is its easiest, fastest, and most affordable tool for creating 3D prints, setting a new standard in resolution and accuracy for creating high quality models. Bre Pettis, CEO of MakerBot, announced the partnership during his Opening Remarks for SXSW 2013, and the companies showcased creatures designed with Autodesk’s new 123D Creature iPad app, which were printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer.
The MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner, apparently still a prototype, adds to MakerBot’s product family, which includes the Replicator 3D Printers, Thingiverse.com, MakerWare, MakerCare, and the apps inside Thingiverse, including the Customizer app.
According to Pettis, “It’s a natural progression for us to create a product that makes 3D printing even easier. With the MakerBot Digitizer, now everyone will be able to scan a physical item, digitize it, and print it in 3D – with little or no design experience.”
The scanner will use lasers and cameras to replicate physical objects into a digital form and file.
While the majority of 3D scanners are high-end, there are a few already out there that do a good job of capturing digital information about an object, and working with the major CAD programs. One that comes to mind is the NextEngine 3D laser scanner that Jay Leno uses.