Meet Photon: A low-cost 3D scanner that helps replicate physical objects

I haven’t yet bought a 3D printer although I plan to do so in the not-to-distant future. The main reasons I’ve held back are the printer costs and the fact that I have no experience with the design software needed to create objects. There are now several sub-$1,000 3D printer models available, with some even as low as $200 for printing small items. That reduces the cost issue, but I’m still not an expert in 3D design software.

Photon could be answer for me. This 3D scanner, currently a funded Indiegogo project, helps replicate physical objects so you can print a 3D copy of them. Essentially, it takes all of the design work out of play, provided you want to print a copy of something that already exists. I can live with that while I learn how to use the software to create my own designs, particularly when Photon costs CAD $449.00 (US $442.21), which isn’t too bad for this type of technology.


What I like best is that the Photon will scan hundreds of points on an object’s exterior surface and then convert the captured data into a wire-mesh design.

Photon scan

Other aspects that appeal to me: Although Photon can scan things up to 7.5 inches in diameter and 9.75 inches high, it actually folds up and looks quite portable. Average resolution scans can be completed in about 3 minutes. And a USB port makes it easy to get design files from the Photon to a computer, although I’d also like to see an integrated microSD card slot.

So am I backing this one? I’m going to have to think on it a little more, partly because I don’t yet have a 3D printer and partly because of the software support for Photon. According to the project page:

“We’re aiming to make the 3D files compatible with all major CAD packages, 3D modelling software and 3D printers. Currently, models produced from the Photon, can be saved as .STL, .OBJ, and point cloud .PLY formats. Making it easy to integrate scans within existing systems, such as 3DS max, Maya, solidworks, cinema 4d, google sketchup, rhino, True space, etc.”

Until I see that type of compatibility nailed down, I may hold off on the Photon. However, I like what I see and this device could push me over the edge to purchase a 3D printer sooner rather than later. I should also note that the first batch of Photon deliveries is slated for July and August. That’s an aggressive time-frame that puts the Photon on the market before the MakerBot Digitizer; another 3D scanner which has no price tag yet and is expected this fall.