The growing world of 3D printing has seen the concept go mobile with the announcement of Structure Sensor, the world’s first 3D Scanner for the iPad.

Designed by San Francisco-based software company Occipital, Structure Sensor is a compact device that simply clips onto the back of an iPad and empowers the tablet to capture 3D images.

The 3D images can then be imported into CAD or directly 3D printed, with the device offering incredible flexibility and possibility to both the design industry and the ambitious consumer.

Structure Sensor 3D Scanner

Structure Sensor 3D Scanner

Structure Sensor works by capturing a pattern of invisible laser projected light which allows you to measure thousands of distances all at once,” explained Occipital co-founder Jeff Powers.

The scanner runs off the lighting connector and features its own battery so as not to drain the tablet. Occipital chose the iPad as the preferred mobile device for Structure Sensor as the company feels it offers the best user experience of any tablet.

Jeff Powers, Occipital

Jeff Powers, Occipital

Designers and architects can now digitise the world from their pocket. Structure Sensor can capture every dimension in an entire room in a matter of seconds and allows users to place a digital model in the room and share it instantaneously with others. For an interior designer, suddenly measuring a couch to fit a room or applying textiles to windows can be incredibly simple.

“This isn’t about taking pictures, it’s about computer vision and interaction,” explains Powers. “We call it special computing. It’s much bigger than just us and it’s going to change the way we interact with the world.”

Scanning Room

Scanning a room

Since Occipital is primarily a software company, it teamed up with PrimeSense, the company behind the original Microsoft Kinect to develop Structure Sensor.

PrimeSense founder and president Aviad Maizels called the application of 3D technology to a mobile device an “immense challenge.”

Aesthetically, Structure Sensor is clad in an anodized aluminium LED case (currently featured in blue and white) which acts as both a strong exterior and thermal core keeping the optics inside at an optimal temperature.

The device has earned attention around the world for its crowd funded campaign on Kickstarter. Priced at a comfortable $349 (a $20 discount applies for early supporters), Structure Sensor quickly surpassed its $100,000 funding budget to reach $646,000 in a matter of days, a number that is still rising.

Scanning Process

The scanning process

The device has also drawn incredible testimonials from design experts around the globe.

“The end result is actually thermal design, mechanical design, industrial design all being put together in one perfect object,” said Gadi Amit, president and principal designer of NewDeal Design.

“If you point the structure sensor out into the world, you’re capturing the world,” enthused John Underkoffler, science advisor to Minority Report.

Scanning Process Illustrated

Scanning process illustrated

Structure Sensor’s size and price point has also stirred up competition for Makerbot, who last month unveiled a desktop 3D scanner that scans objects to be printed on a 3D printer and is valued at $1,400.

In a market where mobile technology continues to grow, Structure Sensor demonstrates the possibilities of a device that can truly capture and digitise the world.