This is the sort of team I love to meet. The Sydney-based team at EORA 3D decided that 3D scanners were too expensive for their needs and built their own. I met them at CeBIT Australia last week as they were preparing to ship their creation out to the world and Indranil Roy, a lead engineer, was kind enough to chat with me a bit about their story!
EORA 3D uses triangulation to capture surfaces and objects in high-precision using a smartphone and smartphone-mounted EORA 3D scanner. It has a range of up to 1 meter (3 feet) and can even capture larger objects by using multiple captures stitched together! It supports a range of Android and iPhone devices, and even has a Bluetooth Turntable to let you capture 360° models with ease. This is seriously valuable functionality for a pretty reasonable price that is a bit more affordable for developers and enthusiasts.
The origin story of the device is the sort of origin story I like to hear:
“Two of our co-founders were working on a solar project to track the warping on a solar dish and needed an accurate 3D scanner. They went out in the market and started looking into buying one only to find that the most affordable one that met the requirements of our project was US$12,000!”
“Coming from an engineering background and a curious mind, they thought that with the immense processing power we have in our modern smartphones, surely it would be possible to develop a high-precision portable 3D scanner which can contend with the expensive 3D scanners out there. And so, EORA 3D was born!” — Indranil Roy
Their team combined two ideas into one — why buy an expensive 3D scanner when you can just use the power of your smartphone for the process? Their next step to finding funding was to turn to Kickstarter and find more support. Luckily, they did really well!
“After one year of developing we were ready to go big and decided crowdfunding was the way to go, so we launched on Kickstarter and garnered massive support from our amazing backers. One year on, we are about to ship and have made great strides to improve the initial technology that we have developed.”
Of course, as many techies would know who’ve backed Kickstarter hardware projects, it is often fraught with peril and difficulties! When I asked Indranil about their team’s experience building hardware, he definitely echoed a lot of what I’ve heard from others. Hardware products are hard!
“It’s been a heck of a rollercoaster. Once we decided to go full-scale manufacturing, the real challenges started with sourcing suppliers, manufacturers and this could only be done by being on the ground in Shenzhen, China.”
One thing I didn’t realise is that while you can outsource manufacturing to countries like China, you need to get someone over there to work with them in order to get the best result. It isn’t quite as easy as just sending over some specs and having it put together remotely.
“Expect the worst when it comes to suppliers and manufacturers. By no means expect things to work out by doing everything remotely. Travel to China and forge the relationships that create trust so you can rely on your manufacturers and suppliers.” — Indranil Roy
Not only is it a hard process, but being in Australia added its own challenges (and opportunities!),
“They say doing hardware is hard. Doing hardware in Australia is probably adding another level of difficulty to establishing a solid foundation for your company. With risk-averseness, to lack of vision from investors, the perks are that we are in close proximity to China which makes it easier to head over there. The government here does have great research grants which help budding new startups that should be looked into.”
Keen to know if you can use this in your own projects? It outputs .stl files for 3D printing, .obj and .ply for a whole range of purposes too! Indranil says that there’s a whole range of people interested in the tech, in particular:
“Mostly people who have a keen interest in designing and those who have 3D printers. This includes game designers, architects, film producers, graphics designers and content creators. Some other industries include forensics and heavy machinery which has some really interesting applications.”
The team have grander schemes it seems — this isn’t the last we’ve heard of them now they’re shipping! Indranil hinted, “we have come far and learned a lot through this journey but are already looking forward to creating our next product.”
I’m pretty keen to see what they do next!
A final quote from Indranil that I quite liked for those looking to get into this space and make their own hardware startup,
“Make sure you have a little trust in serendipity.” — Indranil Roy
Thank you to Indranil Roy for spending some time sharing the story of EORA 3D! It was a pleasure meeting them at CeBIT Australia last week — you might spot their tech in the upcoming roundup video of the event! If you’re keen to get your hands on the EORA 3D scanner or find out more, check out the EORA 3D website. If you’d like to see more of what happened at CeBIT Australia 2017, check out our other interviews here.