Geo Week News

February 24, 2012

Are your scans worth money?

Well, of course your scans are worth money. They help you create your deliverables for your clients, they create efficiencies, they solve problems. Or you use them to better understand your facility/organization/what have you. But, I mean, could you sell them to other people?

That’s the premise behind the new, which is an online store based in Oakland where you can actually download, for a price, scans of all sorts of things: sculptures, objects, body parts, fossils, etc. It was created by artist Andrew Werby, who was an early 3D and scanning enthusiast. 

From the About Us page: 

As enthusiasts and early adopters of 3D scanning technology ourselves, we noticed that while there were many sites selling 3D scanners and offering to make custom scans for clients, there wasn’t anyplace for someone to purchase them ready-made, like stock photographs, or to sell scans they may have produced. We hope these sites will go some way toward remedying this deficiency. 

Well, Arius3D is sort of doing that already, aren’t they? I guess the difference might be that Arius3D seems to just be creating a way for you to display your own objects or a way for you to display someone else’s object for a fee. 3DScanHub is actually allowing you to download an STL or OBJ file that would be suitable for 3D printing, in addition to display of whatever kind you can figure out. (Plus, ScanHub has the ability to create a community of users uploading scans for sale and for those people to, in turn, get paid.)

Except this is where I get a little confused. No simple scan is going to be print-quality. No one’s printing out a point cloud in 3D. You’re always going to have to do some kind of processing to get from scan to printable model. So why isn’t this I guess because everything on here started out as a real thing, and there’s already plenty of places like 3D ContentCentral and SolidComponents where you can get 2D and 3D model files for all of your CAD needs. This is pretty clearly different from that. 

Nor can you just take these “scans” and use them however you’d like. There’s a license agreement that lets you print out for personal use, blah, blah. I’m sure the EULA is solid. 

And here’s the basic description of how to do business with these folks if you’re interested:

We’ll take care of the business side: running the site, publicizing it, and collecting and distributing the proceeds from selling the scans you provide. You allow us to sell licenses to your scans to people anywhere in the world and agree that they can do pretty much anything legal they want with them, including making and selling derivative works with them or altering or distorting them. You will also let us use your content for marketing purposes. But don’t worry, you’ll still own the copyright to your scans. All you’re selling is a limited, non-exclusive license to use them for certain purposes. 

Right now there are only a few scans up for sale, five in each category. It’s more of a concept than an operating store. Does it have potential? Well, places like Cubify and Shapeways certainly think there’s a market for people to download/upload designs for 3D printing and sale, but almost all of those things are either jewelry or utilitarian, and designed from scratch. 

It seems somewhat impractical for people to be laser scanning objects like fossils and their statues they’ve made or own copyrights to, then processing them for watertight print-quality, then uploading them for sale at a price like $50. Nor does it seem like there would be many people yet capable of, and/or interested in, downloading these objects of various sizes and displaying them in any way or printing them.

There’s clearly a market, but the size of that market isn’t apparent to me. A couple thousand people in the U.S. who might be interested? It’s hard to say. 

Regardless, it’s something to think about. Could your scanner be put to a different use? Does it have revenue potential you didn’t consider. 3DScanHub thinks so. 

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