This Cheap Crowdfunded 3-D Scanner Lets You Reproduce Pretty Much Anything

Want to scan in real-life objects and reproduce them on your 3-D printer? An independent Latvian hacker has already beaten bigger industry rivals like MakerBot in the 3-D scanner game with this super-cheap scanner, now being funded on Indiegogo.

Three-dimensional scanners eliminate the guesswork of 3-D modeling by--you guessed it--using a combination of lasers and a camera to map a real object into a 3-D file. The darling of the 3-D printer movement MakerBot recently released their Digitizer 3-D scanner for $1,400, but Latvian innovator Robert Mikelson has set up an Indiegogo to ship his Rubicon 3-D scanner for just $200.

The Rubicon looks identical to the Digitizer: Two lasers on either side of a camera sit pointed at the center of a turntable. An object placed at the center of a turntable is painted by the lasers and photographed by the camera to map the laser positions. Then the table turns .45 of a degree and the process repeats to gain a 360-degree scan of the image, which takes about 800 rotations. The Digitizer takes 12 minutes to complete an 800-rotation scan, while the Rubicon takes just three.

Unlike the camera bolted into the Digitizer’s solid plastic frame, the Rubicon’s camera is separate, allowing you to move it to take in larger objects. It’s unclear if the camera pictured in the video (a Logitech c920) is included with purchase of the Rubicon as its specs compare the commercially available Logitech, which maxes at 15 megapixels, to the inboard Digitzer camera’s 1.3 megapixels. Even if it isn’t included, the Logitech c920 retails for around $80, keeping the whole Rubicon kit far below the Digitizer’s price tag.

But part of the Digitzer’s cost derives from being part of the MakerBot suite: The Digitzer page claims that it works just fine with non-MakerBot printers, but is optimized for its Replicator fleet and its free, bundled MakerWare software. Rubicon comes with software to mess with the scanned wireframe mesh, adjust density, and export the hi-polygon mesh or a structured/optimized model.

The Rubicon currently runs off an Arduino microncontroller board and stepper motor, but part of the $25,000 campaign requests will go toward developing a unique PCB. The campaign has raised about $5,000 and plans to ship Rubicon scanners around mid-December.

[Image via Rubicon]