As 3-D printers and 3-D scanners get cheaper, a nascent industry could be roiled by battles over intellectual property.

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Many people think 3-D printing could help spark a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S. — even President Obama highlighted this technology in his State of the Union address last week.

But as 3-D printers and 3-D scanners get cheaper, this nascent industry could be roiled by battles over intellectual property.

Not so long ago, a good 3-D scanner that could create accurate digital models of objects in the real world cost more than $10,000. Then, Microsoft released the Kinect — the video game controller that allows you to play games by just waving your hands.

“But it turned out that the Kinect was actually much more than that — it was a 3-D camera but one-hundredth of the price,” says Nicolas Burrus, co-founder of manctl, a 3-D scanning company.

Burrus was working on computer vision research at a university in Spain when the video-game system technology came out. “We knew that this could change everything because anyone could just start scanning,” he says. His company makes software that turns the Kinect into a cheap, high-quality 3-D scanner, so we conducted a little experiment.

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Source: Steve Henn | NPR | February 19, 2013
Image: StruveDesigns.com | NPR