Wednesday, 26 August 2009

MACHINE OF THE DAY: 3d Scanner [update 2]

A friend suggested I start an occasional series on cool machines.  But since I’m congenitally unable to just show you cool pictures without pontificating, let me tell you first why motors and machines are so cool.

In fact, let Ayn Rand tell you.  She was a machine-worshipper from way back.  In fact, she was a train-worshipper.  “A train,” she said, “has the two great attributes of life, she thought, motion and purpose.”  (Mind you, she was talking about the trains that opened up the American continent, not the ones that ride unoccupied around Auckland.). 

And machines?  Why did she like them?

    Why had she always felt that joyous sense of confidence when looking at machines?—she thought. In these giant shapes, two aspects pertaining to the inhuman were radiantly absent: the causeless and the purposeless. Every part of the motors was an embodied answer to "Why?" and "What for?” . . . The motors were a moral code cast in steel.
    They are alive, she thought, because they are the physical shape of the action of a living power—of the mind that had been able to grasp the whole of this complexity, to set its purpose, to give it form…
    They are alive, she thought, but their soul operates them by remote control. Their soul is in every man who has the capacity to equal this achievement. Should the soul vanish from the earth, the motors would stop, because that is the power which keeps them going—not the oil under the floor under her feet, the oil that would then become primeval ooze again—not the steel cylinders that would become stains of rust on the walls of the caves of shivering savages—the power of a living mind—the power of thought and choice and purpose.

So with that brief yet thoughtful introduction, here’s our first Machine of the Day: a machine that ‘scans and prints’ 3d objects.  Basically, it scans a complicated 3-dimensional object or assembly, and then ‘prints’ it out – also in three-dimensions!  And already assembled. Every decent workshop needs one of these these beauties to keep its motors going:


NB: Feel free to send me  links to your favourite cool machines.  I’ll enjoy browsing them, even if I don’t post them all.

UPDATE 1: Just as cool, by the way, is a new machine being sold to architects: a 3d printer that produces solid models and prototypes from 3D CAD files.  Send a printer like Colourbox a 3d CAD file, and if you’re architect Pete Bossley out of their printer will pop something like this:


Or even something in full colour.  It’s not yet inexpensive enough for every client, but how cool is that!

UPDATE 2: Greig McGill reckons we should take a look at “something a long way behind and with slightly different goals, but quite cool nonetheless -- the RepRap project. Vik Olliver is a kiwi and a really interesting guy to boot,” says Greig.


  1. It is indeed fantastic technology. I am designing a medical procedure simulator for a client. The mechanical parts are designed by an industrial designer through a 3D drawing. I evaluate the drawings and eventually we have them "printed" in Australia. Then we can evaluate the results in real life as plastic parts. Our current prototype is entirely made using this technology, opaque plastic, transparent plastic and even pliable rubber parts are made in this way. The production models will be partly made using this technique. This is technology that enables small businesses to make great things that in the past would have simply cost too much in tooling to even attempt. Unfortunately I can not show any images as the project is still confidential.

  2. This is the cutting-edge domain of computer-vision technology.

    The techniques/concepts described in the following paper, is applicable to the design of that 3D-scanner machine shown on this post.

    Discriminative Learning of Markov Random Fields for Segmentation of 3D Scan Data

    The same techniques are also used in modern medical-scanning technology. These types of machines/technologies will be more or less have souls at some stage in the future (perhaps in the next 150 years), when man and machines morphed together.

  3. Something a long way behind and with slightly different goals, but quite cool nonetheless is the RepRap project. Vik Olliver is a kiwi and a really interesting guy to boot.

  4. Man! that is a seriously cool thing - Imagine that! - A 3d scale model of your new house. That would help clarify many grey areas of a proposed new residence.

    When the architect drew up my house, He would have had a picture in his head of what it looked like inside, but I had no idea really, so there were a few surprises.

    This thing would help fix that


  5. Dinther:
    That sounds amazing also - great concept.

    I have often wanted to have various items made, but the costs have been prohibitive. this sounds great - how far away do you think you are from production? - good luck with it.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.