Today (Nov. 8), 3D Systems launched Sense, a $400 handheld consumer device that scans objects for 3D printing. The Sense needs to be tethered to a computer or tablet running Windows 7 or 8, as the software creates a model from the surface of the object you are "painting" with a laser. That model can then be manipulated using 3D Systems' Cubify Sculpt software.
Because it is a handheld scanner, rather than a flatbed scanner that you place an object into (like MakerBot’s $1,400 Digitizer), you are not limited to small objects. The software supports scanning surfaces as large as 10 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet (3 meters by 3 meters by 3 meters), thus allowing the ability to scan an entire person. Surfaces can also be as small as 6 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches (15 centimeters by 15 centimeters by 15 centimeters). The resulting model can be made up of 20,000 to 400,000 polygons, for a model with a moderate level of resolution.
If you do not have a Cube and instead use a different 3D printer, you can still use Sense because it creates standard STL or PLY files that other 3D printers can recognize. 3D Systems claims the software that Sense uses is intelligent enough to eliminate background information as you scan objects, mesh together the different passes of the scanner into one object and even fill in the gaps if you miss small patches of an object’s surface as you scan it. If so, it would be a huge leap over apps that turn smartphones or PCs into scanners (with hilarious results).
The Sense is available now on Cubify for $400, or as part of various $1,000+ bundles that come with one of the Cube scanners and ABS or PLA plastic cartridges for the Cubify Cube (ranked as one of Tom's Guide's Best 3D Printers). The Sense will be sold at Staples and Staples.com starting Nov. 18.