Any 3D printer owner will soon realize they need more than just 3D models you can find or even buy. You need to scan stuff you own. You need to replicate.
The trouble is, 3D scanning is difficult. You're either spending tens of thousands of dollars on pricey equipment, software and training, or settling for low-end solutions. The low-end solutions frequently require an expensive graphics card for real-time processing of 3D images. Unfortunately, many laptops today do not include the necessary hardware. So you're stuck.
Until Volumental, that is. They've launched a cloud-based 3D scanning service that hopes to pull down some of the barriers to personal 3D scanning.
Volumental is an eleven-person spin-off of the Kinect@Home group, based in Stockholm. Co-Founder Caroline Walerud says:
At Volumental, in under a year, we've turned this futuristic vision into a reality and democratized 3D scanning by creating the world's first and only browser-based 3D scanning service.
Models can be shared publicly on Volumental's site, or marked private. Most importantly, you can download the 3D model generated by Volumental for 3D printing on your own equipment. It's not clear what fees Volumental will assess, but for now it appears they might be making money from a portion of direct-to-3D-print services they will provide.
At launch the accuracy of the models may be less than you'd expect. They explain that as they add server capacity, they'll be able to process models with much greater resolution. Of course, resolution also depends greatly on the power of your depth camera, too.
The examples shown by Volumental are impressive: Easy to perform, reasonable resolution and in full color. Even better, there are no software worries, as the cloud engines are always up to date.
What is Volumental looking for? They need funds to build out their service and proceed towards expansion. While their campaign offers several combinations, the "meaty" ones appear to be USD$300 for a depth camera and USD$500 for five years of unlimited scan downloads.