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Human limbs, military vehicles and giant murals painted by Leonardo da Vinci -- these are just a few applications of 3-D scanning technology that are already being used in industries from medical to manufacturing to art.
Even though one vendor has been succeeding in the business for over 10 years, in many ways, this technology is just beginning to flourish in the IT channel.
It's not news that 3-D printers capable of conceiving plastic, metal or wax replicas of just about any person or object are picking up in popularity. In fact, consumers can pick a printer up at Staples starting at under $1,300. 3-D scanners, though often complimentary to a 3-D printer, have applications that exist in a whole different ballpark.
One common example of 3-D scanner use involves art preservation. For instance, a museum can keep a scanned copy of artifacts and paintings to recall later for repair or replication. In manufacturing, a 3-D image of a machine may be recalled to hone in on a particular part that may be broken for an easier fix. 3-D images are being used across the medical field to replicate organic matter into perfectly fitted prosthetics.
Big, clunky equipment is not necessary to take advantage of this emerging technology. Some of the top scanners on the market are handheld and capable of reproducing accurate, digital 3-D models of small objects in a matter of minutes and larger objects like cars or buildings in a matter of hours.
As more demand is created, 3-D scanners have already evolved greatly from where they started. Anna Zevelyov, Director of Business Development at Artec Group, a Luxembourg-based company that has been producing and selling 3-D scanners for over 10 years, said their newest scanner, the Artec Spider, was designed with computer-aided design (CAD) users in mind.
"We envisioned that every engineer, product designer and inventor will have this instrument on his or her desk. Our goal was to create an affordable, easy to use, lightweight scanner that every CAD user will find useful," Zevelyov said. To date, Artec Group has partners in over 80 countries.
Scanners like the Spider will allow professionals, like those Zevelyov mentioned, to produce higher quality items with more ease and in less time.
Ron Robinson, president and CEO of 3DCAD Printer Inc., is convinced there are business opportunities around 3-D scanning and printing and has wasted no time getting in the game. Spending much of his career in the IT data storage business, Robinson is now investing a large portion of his time and energy into projecting his 3DCAD business forward.