What can the Makerbot Digitizer Scan, and what it can not!

This is a bit of a warts and all review of the Makerbot Digitizer, 3d scanner. In fact it is really a bit of a commentary on all scanners we have tried that are currently available?

The fact is that 3D scanner tech in the low budget models (under $5000) are really still very simple in their skill and application. This being said they can be great to use as a "rough draft" approach to taking a scan and then using it in a 3D Modeling software to clean up and create a model.


Thought we would start by detailing where we are coming from. We have tried and tested the Scan Master, Makerbot Digitizer, Matter and Form, Kinnect, Assorted photo-to-3d model software applications inc 123D catch. 

We have also used and seen in use high end scanners ranging from $30-50,000.

So our opinions and conclusions are drawn based on these experiences

Tiny objects 

The makerbot scanner is better than many we have tried at small objects like the tiny elephant pictured below.

The little Elephant in the photo below is only 3cm tall! I have to admit I did not expect anything even resembling an Elephant. 

It captured the basic details and shape although we suspect reflection effected the top of the trunk

Fine Detail

This tutankhamun status is a perfect example actually of the capabilities of the scanner. The basic shape it very good, and it even captured the snakes on the head, and texture of the head piece and clothing reasonable well. (Note figurine is only 12cm tall), but as expected the fine detail is missing and it is not a "polished" model. We also note, as you can see in the photo, it is gold and reflective so there are things we could do to help the scanner here, but as this piece is particularly valuable we did not wish to coat it with anything.

For more on reflective surfaces see the article titled : "Scanning shiny or reflective objects with the Makerbot Digitzer 3D Scanner "

Something easier

We also scanned a simple bottle before we even calibrated the machine! It was almost perfect, again rough on the surface, but detail all correct.

In conclusion

We, like many of you, wish the scanners were better. We dream of the star trek like "replicator" that can perfectly copy any object. The fact is the Makerbot Digitizer does do better than than other "table-top" scanners we have tried.

We would classify them as great for hobby and for providing a rough guide for designers repairing or remodeling an existing object. Do not expect fine detail and crisp edges, the tech is just not there yet.