MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis says his 3D printing company is working on a desktop 3D scanner called the Digitizer, to help ease the process of translating real-world objects into a 3D-printable software file.
Pettis made the announcement during his South By Southwest keynote address this afternoon in Austin, Texas.
Scanning is one of three ways to obtain a printable design file for a 3D object, along with downloading a file created by someone else, and using software to design a model from scratch. Commercial scanners already exist, but cost thousands of dollars. You can also find plans for DIY scanners that use 3D imaging devices like the camera in Microsoft's Xbox Kinect.
MakerBot has not yet announced the price of the Digitizer, said to still be in prototype form, but the press release quotes Pettis saying, "Now everyone will be able to scan a physical object," suggesting that it might at least be consumer-approachable, similiar to its original $1,800 Replicator 3D printer.
The release also indicated that the Digitizer will use the traditional combination of "lasers and cameras to replicate physical objects into a digital form and file."
To date, no other manufacturer of consumer-level 3D printers offers a competing 3D scanner.
MakerBot's Web site lists no details about the Digitizer's specifications, price, or availability. It does provide a sign-up form, though, where you can leave an e-mail address to receive future updates.