Affordable 3D handheld scanner to bring fast replication to the masses

A handheld 3D scanner that is dramatically cheaper than many of its rivals is set for release, enabling users to quickly create stl files for 3D printing, or convert them for use in VR.

The 198g scanner, which is from emerging 3D printer company XYZprinting, is set to go on sale at the start of November for a puny £149, making it a serious option for Christmas gifts.

It is designed to be very simple and quick to use, with the holder moving the scanner around the object they are capturing, and the scan appearing in real-time on an attached computer. They are even able to stop and start a scan to get a complete capture.

We witnessed it capture a complete head scan in about 90 seconds, which was then ready to be 3D printed using a simple interface.

At present it can only capture scans of up to 60cm x 60cm x 40cm, but that’s set to change in February, when an update to Intel RealSense – the scanner’s underlying tech – will allow both new already purchased models to complete full body scans.


The scanner is undoubtedly going to be a hit with 3D printing enthusiasts, but it could also help to bring more people into the 3D printing fold.

XYZ’s printers are designed to be affordable and easy to use, and combined with the scanner, could be an appealing option for families looking for semi-educational gifts come the holidays.

The scanner does need to be tethered to a computer to work, but could easily be taken out alongside a laptop, enabling users to 3D scan objects in the wild.

Parents could use the tech to add some fun to a family outing, and creative types could use it to capture objects to later edit, adjust and augment.

A volunteer is scanned using the device at the IFA International Consumer Electronics show in Berlin. Images courtesy of XYZprinting.

A volunteer is scanned using the device at the IFA International Consumer Electronics show in Berlin. Images courtesy of XYZprinting.

There is also some serious potential for it in the virtual reality field. While the scanner is primarily designed for 3D printing, the stl file it produces can be converted into an appropriate 3D file for use in VR environments.

Given that VR is set to skyrocket next year when the major headsets are released to consumers, there is going to be an increasing demand both for 3D object files and the means of quickly creating them.

While many of the 3D objects and environments headed for VR are undoubtedly going to be painstakingly created, there is definitely going to be a big market for 3D models that can be quickly generated.

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Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS – a structure made up of 15 connected modules that floats 250 miles above Earth – for the past 16 years.

Now with Street View regular citizens can explore the station, and go everywhere from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept. This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and for the benefit of viewers the Street View feature also comes annotated, with handy little dots you can click on to explain what everything does, which is another first.

“In the six months that I spent on the International Space Station, it was difficult to find the words or take a picture that accurately describes the feeling of being in space,” said European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog post.

“Working with Google on my latest mission, I captured Street View imagery to show what the ISS looks like from the inside, and share what it’s like to look down on Earth from outer space.”

In his blog post, Pesquet goes on to describe how because of the constraints associated with living and working in space, it wasn’t possible to collect Street View using Google’s usual methods.

Instead, the Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design a gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS.

Still photos were captured in space that were sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

Images courtesy of Google

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled Pesquet.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

Pesquet ended his blog post by revealing the inspiration behind the Street View and ISS collaboration.

“Looking at Earth from above made me think about my own world a little differently, and I hope that the ISS on Street View changes your view of the world too.” said Pesquet.