Autodesk, the company that developed AutoCad, has released an app which turns your iPhone into a 3D scanner. Just three years ago, such technology was solely the preserve of those involved with manufacturing and design, but no longer. The 123D Catch app is available for free on the iPad and iPhone and brings another dimension to the world of consumer 3D printing. It is now possible to scan an object at home, upload the images to the cloud and print a 3D model of said object.
The scanning part involves taking between 20 and 40 photos from different angles; you can then review and amend your images before uploading them to Autodesk's cloud service. Once uploaded, Autodesk's software stitches the photos together by looking for common features between them and extrapolating the angle from which they were taken. If you wish, you can then 3D print your model, either at home if you have your own 3D printer or via a third party if you don’t.
There are some limitations to the system and, as such, the app is best suited to relatively simple objects. Autodesk recommends avoiding reflective surfaces and objects which are either featureless or have a repetitive pattern. The object must also be still, with a constant and consistent light source.
Despite these imperfections, 123D Catch makes 3D scanning, modelling and printing more accessible than ever before and will only improve over time. The merits and potential impact of 3D printing at home are still being debated but the technology is becoming cheaper and easier to use all the time. With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine that home 3D printing doesn’t have some kind of future.
by Anthony Morgan