OMG Lasers! A group of MIT students have built a scanning system that allows 3D printers to restart prints after a failure. Why is this important? Because there is nothing more frustrating than running a long print job only to have it fail in the last few minutes.
The students, Claudio V. Di Leo, Louise E. van den Heuvel, and Sumant S. Raykar, used a standard Solidoodle printer with a laser on the print head. After each layer the laser scans the object, senses the shape, and records the state of the object. Over the course of the print it creates a point cloud model of the object and then compares it with the actual 3D model. When the print fails, the program simply fills in the missing pieces and prints out the missing parts. This would also allow you to print in two colors without having two print heads. 3D Print had exclusive access to the prototype and spoke tot he researchers.
The students are planning to open source the project and have no plans to commercialize it. It looks like an amazing system and should be wildly useful once all of the bugs are ironed out. Considering the laser cost about $30 to build, it should be a great addition to the open source 3D printing arsenal.