Geo Week News

October 8, 2010

FARO Focus3D stuns at debut

FARO Focus3D stuns at debut - Image 1

COLOGNE, Germany – FARO Technologies, Inc. unveiled its new Focus3D scanner this week here at Intergeo in Cologne, Germany, and at the AVEVA World Summit in Amsterdam. This hardware rocks!

It weighs only 5 kg (11 pounds), it’s tiny (9.5 in x 8 in. x 4 in), and it goes very fast (up 976,000 points/second). It’s a beautiful piece of hardware too; the kind of German hardware design aficionados drool over – think BMW M series, or Audi R8. The pricing is also killer. It costs 30,990 Euros ($39,990) for the 120m model, 22,900 ($29,990) euros for the 20m range model. Trade-in deals on older hardware systems are also available.

Get it? In round numbers, the Focus3D is half the price of the previous model and half the size. (This scanner is already giving the competition heartburn, judging from the comments I heard on the show floor this week in Cologne.)

The scanner features a new onboard touchscreen interface with some very new software that feels much more like your new smart phone rather than your old PC. Bernd Becker, FARO director of marketing and product management, says users will be able to upgrade the firmware on the camera by downloading updates over the internet and transferring them to the onboard memory stick. Pre-job planning gets easier with the profile presets that can be prepared on a laptop in advance. You can even customize the sounds the instrument makes when it finishes a task, or download your company logo to the screen.

Storage consists of off-the-shelf SD memory – standard sizes are 32GB, but we’re told that this will scale to 2TB as the new memory hardware becomes commercially available. The scanner comes standard with a hot-swappable 5-hour Li ion battery that recharges in one hour.

The FARO design team headquartered in Ludwigsburg, Germany, made a leap forward in integrating digital photography with laser scanning by making the RGB camera optics collinear with the scanning laser. That’s a mouthful for saying that the digital photograph pixels, all 70 megapixels of them, line up with the scan data with parallax error of less than a pixel.

The Focus3D was more three years in development, according to Oliver Buerkler, 3D laser scanner product manager for FARO. Becker reports the hardware team used 3D technology to complete the design including SolidWorks, rapid prototyping output devices as well as optical simulation codes. Look closely at the Focus3D and you see that the housing is fiber reinforced plastic instead of the machined metal found in previous products and in most competitors’ products. FARO has tooled up for volume production to drive down unit costs.

The advent of the Focus3D marks FARO’s commitment to expand the reach of 3D to a whole new set of users. This aligns them even more closely with software behemoth Autodesk, the company that aims to democratize the use of 3D.

The question of accuracy always arises for any new product. The company reports the accuracy of the Focus3D is as good as the Photon, with significantly reduced noise compared to previous products. The scanning mirror passes a black-and-white stripe on every rotation – FARO has applied for patent protection on this – to allow continuous monitoring of any range drift.

Software upgrades are right behind the new scanner. And Buerkler says that Scene 4.8 will offer targetless scan registration capabilities to streamline scanning workflows . Look for the first demonstrations at the SPAR Europe conference in December.

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