Thursday, April 18th, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

Sub-$500 3D scanner makes $350,000 on Indiegogo

Canadian startup Matterform has raised over $350,000 in crowd funding for the Photon: an affordable, portable laser scanner that aims to do for 3D scanning what MakerBot did for 3D printing.

Aimed squarely at the hobbyist market – its Indiegogo pitch namechecks people who have bought 3D printers but not mastered modelling software – the Photon’s low price and design chops may still tempt pro artists.

The pros
With a footprint roughly the size of a laptop, the Photon is actually slightly larger than its closest competitor, the Next Engine 3D Scanner HD, but its fold-up carrying case and built-in turntable have an instant tactile appeal.

And, at CAD $449 for early backers (set to rise to CAD $599 on release), it’s only a fifth of the price.

The cons
The downside? The 190 mm x 190 mm x 250 mm (7.5″ diameter x 9.75″ height) is quite restrictive, and you won’t be doing any facial scanning, as you might with the Next Engine model.

The quoted accuracy is pretty good (+/- 0.2mm on a scan of a four-inch figurine, compared to +/- 0.13mm for Next Engine), but to judge by the videos, the Photon only captures shape, not surface colour.

Other specs
You can export in OBJ, STL or PLY formats, and the accompanying software works on Windows, Mac and Linux.

But we suspect the Photon’s strongest selling point may be its design. The Next Engine looks like a work tool, but like MakerBot’s printers, the Photon looks like something you can pick up and have fun with.

If you want to get in at the early bird price, the Indiegogo campaign still has 12 days to run. Matterform aims to ship the first units by November – possibly a month earlier, according to its latest campaign update.

Read more about the Photon on the Indiegogo campaign page

Visit Matterform online