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MakerBot's $1,400 Digitizer, which turns real objects into 3D designs, is shipping in October

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Makerbot Digitizer Gnome
Makerbot Digitizer Gnome

MakerBot's digital scanner was first shown off this spring, when it was described as a way to effortlessly turn a real object into a 3D design that could be printed out. At the time, though, it looked like a rough wooden prototype, with no price or exact release date. That changed today, when the company opened pre-orders for a heavily redesigned Digitizer that's set to ship in mid-October. 3D scanning isn't a difficult concept, and something as ubiquitous as a Kinect can produce a printable model with the right software. But MakerBot is betting that the convenience of the Digitizer will make it worth the $1,400 price tag.

That cost is still about $800 less than MakerBot's Replicator 2 printer, but it means the Digitizer isn't so much an accessory as a separate, supplemental product. If you buy one, you'll be able to scan almost any object that can fit on an 8 x 8-inch surface. Shiny and fuzzy objects tend to resist being digitized, and MakerBot warns that "you will not be able to, for example, scan a hamburger and then eat the digital design."

Digitization is one of the more futuristic ideas in 3D printing: a photocopy for objects instead of papers. The Digitizer, however, isn't going to be on every desk any time soon. MakerBot is focused squarely on designers who might want to quickly prototype or modify objects, offering software that lets you tweak or sculpt the object after you've scanned it.  Anybody who's willing to spend some time and money duplicating their world, though, won't have to wait much longer.