How a 3D Smartphone Scanner Could Help Greasemonkeys of the Future

New $200 tech tool, and the bright tomorrow for weekend wrenches.

byBenjamin Preston|
How a 3D Smartphone Scanner Could Help Greasemonkeys of the Future

The guys at eora 3D have launched a new Kickstarter for something exciting. It’s a 3D scanner that connects to your phone via Bluetooth, then uses a laser to scan an object. The phone analyzes said data and reconstructs the scan into a model for 3D printing. Big news: The thing costs $199. And the higher-spec Bluetooth Turntable, which can scan objects up to 7.8 inches in five minutes, is $259. Here, our resident wrench, Benjamin Preston, sounds off on the gearhead potential of affordable, smartphone-powered 3D scanning technology.

There's a difference between a greasemonkey and a mechanic. Mechanics usually, hopefully, know what they're doing. Unfortunately, I include myself under the former title; my method tends to involve a bit more, er, trial and error than normal for a true professional. That means plenty of down time picking up, ordering and waiting for parts that I broke. Or totally forgot to get in the first place.

The smartphone has revolutionized this whole process. Instead of going inside to find parts on the computer (or call the parts store, like I had to do a decade ago), I can simply wipe the oil from my hands and get the information, from a supine position under the car, on my iPhone. With a couple of finger jabs and a thumb swipe, those broken-slash-forgotten parts are ordered and on their way.

But I must still wait for them.

eora 3D

If I had a smartphone 3D scanner, maybe I wouldn't have to wait so long. Bear with me here, and imagine: I could scan the old or broken part to get an approximation of its dimensions. No more eternities scrolling through Google search pages to find obscure things. The Internet would already know, much like it knows my mother's favorite color and the cut of my underwear when I'm on Facebook.

Let's take this a step further. What if the local Kinko's had a 3D printer? I could scan my part, send the file to the print shop and have a freshly-minted sintered aluminum thingamajig fabricated in the time it took for the printer to spit it out. How long would that be? Forty-five minutes? A couple of hours?

One can dream. In the meantime, I'll be here waiting for parts to arrive, one piece at a time, in inappropriately sized boxes with way too many package peanuts.