3D SCANNERS and Printers: Your experience . . . .

I’d appreciate some information and any experience with top notch 3D Scanners . . . .

Anybody use the Dimension Printing and Next Engine 3D Scanners? Are they the best out there?

By the way, I found Next Engine: - YouTube

I’m trying to best optimize my own design and creative process with the above products. A typical process for me:

  1. Sketches to clay and foam models a must (I’m going to set up a traditional wood shop!);
  2. Bring these 3D prototype ideas into the 3D world VIA 3D Scan (this is where I’d like the most information);
  3. Tweak variations within the design software (I have Rhino 4.0 and will take courses soon); and
  4. Convert the design to CAM for manufacturing.

Most of my designs will be musical instruments (i.e., electric guitars) and smaller objects.

I went to school when there was no Alias and other fantastic design softwares available today. In the late '80s and early '90s we still used our shop to make prototypes: from sketches, mechanical drawings to model making. It was around 1992 when the firm I was working for got a Silicon Graphics hardware and Alias software. Of course, the senior designer got the official training and exclusively took over the CAD room, while the rest of us still worked with CLAY.

Fast forward, and I have yet to master any of these softwares. Yet, I’m not really 100% sold on creating 3D forms just in the cyberspace, at least in its developmental stage. I still enjoy sketching and hands-on 3D creative process. In many ways, I design with my eyes and hands in the physical realm similar to the way automobile design is still done (analogous to playing my electric guitar with tube amps instead of digital processors, for those musicians here).

While it probably won’t really apply to you because of the size of your products, for what it’s worth consider this:

Most would prefer to sculpt by hand, because it is within our comfort zone. But at the end of the day even if you have the worlds greatest foam model, you then must spend huge amounts of time translating it into 3D whether it’s via 3D scanning and mapping your surfaces over that cloud data, or just using reference images like back in the college days to approximate your 3D to pictures of your foam model. Even then there is no guarantee that your CAD data will be the same as your scuplture, or that the surfaces you built will be able to be used by manufacturing, and engineering may wind up rebuilding everything to meet their needs, ultimately deteriorating the design intent.

Now imagine you jump into 3D and quickly scuplt your ideas, send them to the 3D printer and can pick up your model in the morning to evaluate it by hand. That model may not be as close to what you wanted in your mind, but because it is tied into 3D data you can quickly go in and modify, re-prototype and re-evaluate, with your changes always tied to 3D data. If this is done correctly, you can then ship your data straight to engineering with draft/part breakup, etc already determined, and now the 1 man army job is done much faster than the auto world method of mill, sculpt, scan, digitize, repeat. The auto world pulls it off because they have dedicated experts at every area. The scupltor only sculpts, the CAD jock only surfaces, etc, but even then much of the traditional auto workflow is going away in favor of more digital prototypes and less real ones.

I think as you see rapid prototyping continue to drop in price people who haven’t seen the value in the all digital workflow will start to appreciate it more.

I can’t argue with your points. It makes sense.

I guess it comes down to how and the way one works, and not necessarily on whether one method is more efficient than the other. For me, I need to fuel the “artist” in me that NEEDS to feel and touch whatever the material I’m working in be it clay, foam or wood; so it’s much more than being in a “comfort zone.” There’s something about the time put into (almost meditative) sketching and modeling as I carve clay or sand down the wood or whatever as I form shapes. Heck, I need to move out of my chair and stand and be mobile! :slight_smile: Most likely, as I come up with certain favorable shapes I would have them 3D scanned for more iterations - I think the efficiency will come into play here.

As you’ve alluded to certainly the size of the product would really come into play here.

Do you or know anyone or firm that owns a 3D Printer and/or 3D scanners? Is this a good time to buy?

We own several 3D printers SLA and thermojet wax, no 3D scanners. As far as time to buy…don’t know if it makes a difference frankly. If you’re looking to do things like guitar bodys you’re going to need something with a very large build area. In fact depending on the size of your setup and the volume you plan on producing, you may want to seriously consider if it makes sense to buy a printer or just make a good relationship with a nearby (or overseas) model house. You may find it will be cheaper to build 100 high quality models overseas than it would to invest in the machinery as well as taking into account your finishing needs for models.

You would also need to consider what technology is actually appropriate - different technologies are different suited for the “looks like” “feels like” or “works like” types of prototypes.

If you do want to purchase a system I would evaluate what your budget is for purchase + operating costs, what size build area you need, and what you want to use the models for.

I’m planning on building a very high end electric guitars - about 24-30 pieces/year. Many parts will be custom, precision made here in the U.S. For my guitar project no overseas work will be done - it’s important, marketing and production-wise, that all pieces are made here for quality and branding.

I’m looking into Next Engine 3D scanners and see whether it’s big enough to scan guitar bodies and necks. The investment in the 3D printer is to allay the cost of prototyping. It should pay for itself in a year, hopefully. I’m also looking into Dimension 3D printers. Check my YouTube link above. The 3D printer will also be used for client based projects as well so it is used efficiently.

My budget for 3D scanner and 3d printer is about $25-30K.

I don’t think any of those 3D printers will actually give you a bed big enough to do what you want. The largest dimension printer looks like it does 10x10x12, which is much bigger than any guitar parts (or am I wrong?).

I’m wondering if a CNC mill would be a better idea? Since ultimately your parts are going to be milled (correct?) wouldn’t that investment potentially let you prototype and build your own components?

10x10x12 is pretty limiting. I’d probably do more research and even speak to folks at Dimensions and others if somehow the footprint will get bigger in the near future. At the same time my concept does not call for a traditional looking guitar :slight_smile:

I don’t know how much CNC machines cost, but eventually that would be the route as either a purchase, or as an outsource proposition.

I have actually built several guitar bodies using the Stratasys Fortus systems. Stratasys is the corporate brand that also sells the Dimension systems and I work in the service business unit, RedEye. Anyway, the bodies you see here were built on the 400mc which has a build envelope size of 16 x 14 x 16 inch.

Check out info on some of the guitars I’ve built: http://www.redeyeondemand.com/CustomApplication.aspx
And my latest guitar and video: http://www.redeyeondemand.com/RedeyeTV.aspx
Find out more about the 400mc at http://www.fortus.com

I would love to see some of your guitars.

I’m just a hack putting these guitars together. It would be very intriguing to see someone actually sell custom built guitars produced on an additive manufacturing technology.


That’s very cool! So, I’m considering a Dimension 3D printer. Which model would suffice getting the guitar body? And, do you also use a 3D scanner?

My designs are in a concept stage at the moment. I hope to push the traditional guitar design and technology. I have a several well known guitar/tech/builder consultants that I will tap into as well, so as to not reinvent the wheel.


That’s very cool! So, I’m considering a Dimension 3D printer. How does Fortus compare to Dimension? Would you know which Dimension model would suffice making the guitar body? And, do you also use a 3D scanner?

My designs are in a concept stage at the moment. I hope to push the traditional guitar design and technology. I have a several well known guitar/tech/builder consultants that I will tap into as well, so as to not reinvent the wheel.

I have the next engine scanner and it is not as useful as I hoped. I too dreamed of sculpting a form and bringing into cad and creating models. It worked ok for the project I used it on two years ago but I haven’t used it much since. The data is not clean enough for manufacturing and it was more difficult to sculpt the forms in 3d after I had the model in place.

The accuracy is best suited for a model the size of a soda can and there is a macro mode for larger objects. I haven’t tried it.

You have to scan the model at different angles and then stitch the part together from the different scans. It’s pretty tricky to mach them up. I doubt that you could have a clean enough stitched scan to build a part from.

If you are totally sold on the system I might consider selling mine. Let me know.

You might be better off exploring a digitizer attached to a mill or a arm digitizer for your application. I don’t think there’s any way around mastering 3d software. With a digitizer you could directly input points on your model. I personally don’t have experience with them.

One more thing, when your serious about introducing your guitars, I helped a guy who develop a pretty cool bridge. He is selling the bass bridge for custom builders. http://www.ksmguitars.com/bridge.html

building something the size of a guitar with an additive process ‘desktop’ machine will be pretty expensive (£200 per 2kg? of either model or support cartridge for the Dimension), and you’ll need to build in chunks small large enough to fit inside the build envelope. The material choice will be extremely limited, as will the functionality and resolution of the parts and ability to finish/paint them to perfection…
In defence of desktop RP though, you do have the possibility of rapid manufacturing forms that would be impossible using CNC or mass manufacture. Also if you ever design smaller products, a desktop printer really comes into its own.

Another good reason to explore a milling machine. That way you can digitize your model and then machine out wood or a cavity for casting or composite layup.


How old is your unit, and was there any software or firmware update on your unit? I too was thinking how an object can be scanned as a whole unit, unless some device which would hold the object would not register in the scan.

I wonder how much improvement has been made since you purchased your unit. BTW, which 3D software were you using with this unit?

I’ll check out your design on the link.

Before I buy it I’m going to have the company do a demo of a guitar body - that would seem to be the best way to see its benefits and limitations.


Since using your scanner 2 years ago, there has been a major updates in code for the NextEngine scanner around December last year. All algorithms have been revamped and streamlined, so processes are faster and better. The software has come a long way since the original HD scanner came out. There is also real time technical support provided by NextEngine for their users in case they need help with something. In the previous iterations of the software, the scanning process was like an art, lots of tinkering with the settings to get the maximum results, which the recent update automates, so scanning should have a smaller learning curve and faster and better results. Why dont you give the scanner another chance to redeem itself? If you have questions please contact us through the real time chat service that we provide to all customers.


If you have questions in regards to our scanner, why dont you hit us up at our website[www.nextengine.com], there are some examples of what can be done with our scanners, and you can also send us questions at info@ nextengine.com (pls excuse the use of whitespace here, damn spam bots). I believe we have a scanned model of a guitar somewhere in our sample model library and I know that we have printed out a scaled down model from our Dimension uPrint printer of that guitar model.
We have lots of customers that work with clay models and then digitize them with our scanner to manipulate with whichever 3D modeling program of their choice. The output file from our scanner software supports most of the popular file formats.

just found the link to the guitar scan we did a while back: 3D Scan of Guitar - NextEngine 3D scanner - YouTube

I’d have love to seen the whole process including the actual use of the scanner with the guitar. Still, I can’t believe there’s a YouTube video of a guitar scan. Would you explain the scan process and what equipment was actually used? Thanks!