MakerBot has announced a new Digitizer 3D Desktop Scanner prototype that analyzes real-world objects and generates designs compatible with its 3D printer line.

A preview page for the scanner, which uses lasers and cameras to essentially create a 3D CAD model, is up on the MakerBot site, but the project is still in prototype stage, so it’s likely going to be a while before this thing is released.

“We are super excited to be able to announce at SXSW Interactive that we are developing the MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D Scanner,” MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis said in a statement.  “It’s a natural progression for us to create a product that makes 3D printing even easier.  With the MakerBot Digitizer, now everyone will be able to scan a physical item, digitize it, and print it in 3D – with little or no design experience.”

makerbot scanner 730x437 The future: MakerBots badass 3D scanner prototype lets you replicate real world objects

Pettis went on to note that “archiving, prototyping, replicating, and digitizing prototypes, models, parts, artifacts, artwork, sculptures, clay figures, jewelry, etc.” are all possible uses for the scanner. One of the appeals of the new Desktop Scanner prototype is that it doesn’t require advanced design and modeling experience.

“If something gets broken, you can print it again,” he said.

3D printing is already pretty futuristic stuff, and this brings MakerBot’s plans for another industrial revolution closer to reality. Also on Friday, MakerBot announced a partnership with Autodesk to jointly market their respective 3D printing hardware and software. Autodesk’s 123D scanning app, which sends photos to Autodesk cloud to generate a 3D model, had been used by MakerBot to showcase its 3D printer line.

The scanner is somewhat similar in function to the 3D photo booth that MakerBot showed off last year. That booth took photos of a visitor’s face, and then created a model for a printed bust.

The arrival of 3D scanners could cause some legal issues, since replicating objects found in the real world could potentially infringe on design copyrights. If anything, it represents a new challenge for legislators as they are tasked with accounting for innovations in the 3D printing space.

Image credit: iStockphoto