(New note as of October 20, 2011: the viral link was recently removed from YouTube. New link to view the video.)
Recently, a video of a National Geographic TV-produced program featuring Z Corporation titled, Known Universe, went viral on YouTube, with over 6.8+ million views. The video has generated loads great discussion and there have been hundreds of comments in support of Z Corp’s unique 3D printing and 3D scanning technologies. Because this has been the first time so many people have been introduced to our technology, there also appear to be some skeptics. There were some comments professing the technology to be a fake and even insinuating that the video was meant to deceive the viewing public.
As a Z Corp employee and the person who appeared in the video, I can assure you that this video and technology is most certainly NOT faked. I’d like to point out a few details to help set the record straight:
- First, it’s important to clarify that National Geographic approached Z Corp about creating the video for their Known Universe program. The premise of the story was to look to the future and provide a vision about the types of technologies available today that might evolve in the future and enable astronauts to create tools in space. National Geographic produced and edited the video - Z Corp was not involved in the editing or review and approval of the final video.
- As many people pointed out, the 3D printed wrench is slightly different from the one we scanned. The differences between the original wrench and the printed one were done intentionally to demonstrate that once scanned, geometry can be digitally edited and then printed. This is typically done in software packages like Geomagic and Rapidform or even in CAD packages like Solidworks. Our customers will typically add, remove or edit features of the design before printing (check out the other videos on our website or on YouTube). In the interest of time, the editors cut the explanation about digital editing from the final video. See Rapidform's video response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvfqoaCw5vQ.
- It is also correct that our ZScanner cannot scan the internal details of the wrench. It is a laser based scanner that can only capture surface information within line of sight. Details like the ends of the worm screw in the wrench are created digitally between scanning and printing as one of the edits mentioned above. The scanner captures everything that can be seen and then someone using editing software adds the details that are hidden. (Alternatively, one could separate the pieces and scan them separately.)
- Obtaining a near-exact replica of an object is entirely possible even though that was not shown in the video. For example, our ZScanners have an XY accuracy ranging from up to 40 microns for our high-end scanner to up to 80 microns for our entry-level scanner. The resolution ranges from .050 mm in XYZ for our high-end scanner to .1 mm in Z for our entry-level scanner. In fact, our scanner customers are using our scanners for inspection applications where accuracy is mission critical, as well as reverse engineering and other applications (see Mackay Consolidated inspection case study).
- As most readers of this blog already know, ZPrinting and ZScanning technologies are real and used today by well-known customers worldwide for a variety of applications, including mechanical design, architecture, education, entertainment, geospatial, healthcare and many more. See our Z Corp case studies and customer press releases.
Hear and see from our customers in their own words how they’re using the technologies today: http://www.zcorp.com/en/forward/events.aspx?c=15
Or, we’ll set up time for you to have a demo here at our headquarters in Boston or at one of our local Z Corp Authorized Dealers.
I personally believe National Geographic did a great job packing a lot of technical content into just a few minutes of air time, while making it entertaining at the same time. Our thanks goes out to them and everyone that helped spread the word.