MakerBot Digitizer goes on sale: 3D scan objects to share virtually

Ok the MakerBot Digitizer 3D scanner won't transport objects into the virtual world like in Tron, but it will scan them accurately and quickly for you to share and clone with a 3D printer.

Scan any object up to eight inches in height or diameter in just twelve minutes. The Digitzier uses lasers to analyse the subject and build a virtual representation. This can then be shared as you please or uploaded to Thingiverse where most 3D object models live these days.

While it's a nightmare for companies' copyrights it makes 3D printing all the more valuable. This is great timing in the campaign to promote 3D printing: Microsoft is planning to use Windows 8.1 as a platform for simplifying 3D printing.

So if you've got a nice iPhone stand, say, and want to share it with a mate simply scan and email. Or perhaps a shower ring has broken - just scan and print another. Always breaking the back off your remote? Scan one in ready to print new when you need it. Yup, you can actually backup physical objects, virtually.

But before you get too excited this is still at the early development stage. "Expectations should be realistic," MakerBot says. "You will not be able to, for example, scan a hamburger and then eat the digital design."

At $1400 (£900) the Digitizer is still aimed at the hobbyist, designer, artist or architect. But 3D printers can be bought for £700, like the Velleman K8200 that you can pre-order from Maplin. While that's not cheap, owning one has potential family savings of £1300 a year reported by Michigan Technology University. So now is a great time to become an early-ish adopter of 3D scanning and printing. Good luck though as the popularity of the Digitizer has overloaded MakerBot's site, for now.