HP bring out a range of 2D printers with ability to scan 3D objects

Home 3D printers are available: if you are a do it yourself enthusiast and are able to make one yourself from instructions available online using only very cheap items available in local stores. HP have also bought out a tabletop 3D printer that could be a home printer if you happen to have very deep pockets but will be used primarily in business for 3D printing services for the time being. Why then does it matter that HP have just bought out a 2D printer with a 3D scanner for home use? The fact that a major company like HP are interested in 3D printing at all is important, until recently 3D printing services have been offered by specialist technology firms and in labs. Many of us have read about 3D printing of course and maybe dreamed of a future where on demand printing of products in our own homes is a part of everyday life;well this may be a small step but it is a little closer. With 3D printing services having a 3D scanner will be important which can create a 3D CAD file on a computer. Like with a photograph or document scan now the CAD file will be editable but the scanning will be a lot quicker than creating a 3D CAD file from scratch if the item you want to print already exists.

The bad news then is that HP’s 3D scanner doesn’t create a 3D CAD file, it creates a 2D image of the item you scan, that makes it sound a lot like a camera but objects will be scanned ready to use in design without editing to remove shadow and shade and in high definition.

The technology inside the HP 3D scanner could quite easily be taken a few steps further to allow it to create 3D CAD files; 6 images are taken of an object from different angles to create the high definition image: this is enough information to create half of a 3D file at least with the right stitching software. It might even be sensible to speculate that the technology that has ended up in this 3D scanner is from a project HP may be working on to create a 3D scanner that is easy enough and cheap enough to run at home or in a business as part of a 3D printing service. Whether the technology’s presence on this 2D printer is a sign of some success or a failure they are trying to make the most of is even more difficult to ascertain.

There is one other thing about this printer and scanner that HP have bought out that is worth considering for those interested in 3D printing services: it is designed to work with cloud computing and can upload directly to Google Apps and Facebook. The future of 3D printing services may very much be based around the sharing of 3D files, either on an open source or paid for basis, in fact Google Sketchup already has an online database of shared 3D CAD models. The ability to complete a 3D scan and instantly share it on Facebook or to get a file sent by a colleague via Google Apps of a design they have just created by hand and then scanned in Berlin that you can then print in New York gives an exciting glimpse of how a world with home 3D printing might be.

Since 2001 EMS (http://www.ems-usa.com) has grown to become one of the premier providers of 3D scanners, product design, rapid prototyping services, 3D scanning services and 3D printing services. With almost a decade of experience in providing high quality service and products, we have helped clients across a variety of industries build and manage their ideas and bring them to life. EMS is based in Tampa, FL and has offices in Atlanta, GA and Detroit, MI.

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