Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 Posted by Jim Thacker

Fuel3D: another promising low-cost 3D scanner

Write about one affordable desktop 3D scanner, and another three come along at once.

No sooner had we posted about MakerBot pre-releasing its $1,400 Digitizer and Matterform’s upcoming rival than we spotted the Indiegogo campaign for FABtotum all-in-one scanner, printer and CNC milling device.

And today, here’s Fuel3D and its successful crowdfunding campaign for its own handheld scanner.

A 3D scanner with a difference
Being handheld, this one is bit different to its competitors. Unlike MakerBot and Matterform’s desktop laser scanning systems, the Fuel3D system is based around photometric imaging and stereo photography.

That has the advantages that the unit is portable, has no fixed capture volume, captures surface colour as well as geometry, and that capture is more or less instantaneous.

Accuracy varies according to distance from the scanner, but Fuel3D quotes an average error of +/- 0.3mm at a maximum recommended scanning distance of 40cm.

On the down side, there are the usual drawbacks of photmetric systems: that transparent, reflective or highly concave objects are difficult to capture accurately.

Fuel3D is bundling its basic own software with the scanner, but for more complex tasks – including stitching separate images into a single mesh – is currently recommending Uformia’s MeshUp.

Focused on faces
What caught our attention is Fuel3D’s focus on facial scanning: the project has been spun off from medical imaging research at Oxford University, and many of the examples on the Kickstarter page are facial scans.

Unusually, the Kickstarter pitch video also shows the scans in the context of a professional graphics workflow: in this case, facial animation work for an indie game.

The price is slightly higher than the desktop scanners mentioned earlier: Fuel3D aims to sell the unit for $1,490, but if you back the project now, you can pre-order a scanner and a copy of MeshUp for $1,090.

At the time of writing, the Kickstarter campaign had almost met its $75,000 funding target four times over, with five days still to go.

Read more about Fuel3D’s handheld scanner on Kickstarter

Visit the Fuel3D website