One of the most interesting applications for 3-D printing is duplicating things you have around the house or office. But to duplicate something, you need a 3-D scanner, not just a printer. While hackers have answered the 3-D-scanning challenge by repurposing a Kinect to take 3-D printer-quality scans, it’s still chained to your desk. But no more! Occipital’s Structure sensor device turns your iPad into a mobile 3-D scanning beast, letting you roam around the world and scan things in the wild to 3-D print later.
If you need more convincing than the extensive testimonials in the Structure’s Kickstarter video, consider its crowdfunding progress: Since launching this morning, it’s made $40,000 out of its $100,000 goal. It’s easy to see why: At the $349 Kickstarter price, the Structure is a stereoscopic scanner with paired infrared LEDs that capture invisible patterns of light to form a 3-D model, all encased in an attractive anodized aluminum case. There’s even an included battery with four hours of usage life so it won’t drain your iPad.
Yes, you can scan objects into a CAD 3-D file (say, for 3-D printing later), but the possibilities for digitizing your world are extensive: Scan your house, the above video demonstrates, and keep the dimensions on your phone to make sure home improvement projects only need one trip to the store. Or, if your partner’s out with the scanner, have him or her scan and send it to you to gauge at home. Plus, who doesn’t want to see what 3-D games can come out of a 3-D-conscious iPad app?
But as the video points out, Occipital is a software company—it wants to get the Structure out into the hands of developers, giving them a software development kit (SDK) for complete low-level access to the sensor (with a less-intensive option to write in Xcode and deploy). The drivers and CAD specs are open source and will be available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Android (which can connect to the device through a USB OTG adapter).
The Structure runs off the Lightning connector favored by current iOS devices; sadly, that likely means older iPads and iOS devices are out of luck. The Occipital-preferred model is the iPad 4 (which is what they based their bracket design around), though they note that other Lightning-equipped models like the iPad Mini and iPhone 5/S/C should work just fine with it.
[Image: Flickr user Mike Lau]