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Posted at 04:45 PM ET, 03/08/2013

MakerBot’s Bre Pettis introduces ‘Digitizer’ at SXSW


MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis introduces a prototype of the MakerBot Digitizer at SXSW during his keynote address on March 8, 2013. The machine is a 3D scanner able to scan images roughly 8 inches wide by 8 inches tall. Pettis is joined on stage by host Steve Garfield. (Emi Kolawole)

AUSTIN, Texas — During his keynote address on the first day of SXSW Interactive, MakerBot founder Bre Pettis made an announcement introducing the MakerBot Digitizer.

The new addition to the Makerbot “ecosystem,” as he termed it, allows users to scan 3D objects about 8 inches around and 8 inches high. It eliminates the need to use computer-aided design (CAD), a relatively complex software for the uninitiated. Pettis says the Digitizer will be available for orders in the fall.

“We’re bringing it here to show you first,” Pettis told the audience. “Keep in mind, this is a prototype,” he said asking the audience to provide a drumroll. The Digitizer, prior to its unveiling rested on the stage under a velvet blanket. There are two lasers -- “lasers,” Pettis repeated to laughter -- that scan the object the user wants to copy. The laser creates points and then wraps those points into a 3D model. The machine leverages webcams, among other technology.

“If you’ve seen Tron, this is kind of like what happens when Flynn gets digitized into the game grid,” said Pettis to knowing ahs and applause from the audience, “and then it makes it into a 3D model. Then you can make as many copies as you need.”

If you haven’t seen Tron, here’s what he’s referring to:

“You have the power of replication,” said Pettis, “in many ways this goes hand in hand with the Makerbot Replicator. ... This is kind of like the washer-dryer combo of replication.”

“This changes our company from just being a 3D printer company to a company that’s building out a 3D ecosystem,” Pettis said.

“We’re launching hardware at SXSW,” he said. “It is the best time to get into hardware. ... Join the next industrial revolution.”


MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis introduces a prototype of the MakerBot Digitizer at SXSW during his keynote address on March 8, 2013. Pettis is joined on stage by host Steve Garfield. (Emi Kolawole)

The price tag has not been released. Those interested in acquiring the device can sign-up on the MakerBot Web site, which provides no additional details as to the device, the first to be available for consumers. While 3D scanners exist, aside from DIY hacks of existing technology, such as the XBox Kinect, their cost is high for the average user.

Pettis’s remarks underscored a trend being heavily monitored at this year’s conference: Whether this SXSW will be the one where hardware and objects will emerge much as social media applications Twitter and Foursquare did at previous conferences.

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By  |  04:45 PM ET, 03/08/2013

 
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