What’s a 3D scanner for? More than just providing source material for 3D printers, reckons Fuel3D, an Oxford University spin-out that last year Kickstarted a consumer-grade, high-resolution handheld 3D scanner.
Today it’s announcing a $6.4 million expansion round of funding, led by Chimera Partners, which it dubs a “pre-IPO round” — having previously penciled in early 2015 for an initial public offering. The funding will be used to scale up the application of its tech.
Fuel3D pulled in $300,000 last year via Kickstarter before going on to secure $2.6 million in early stage VC financing. It also bagged a $1.1 million development contract to broaden the applications of its 3D tech, focusing on medical imaging.
The latest tranche of cash expands its focus further to other verticals — with eyewear fitting and biometrics in the frame now.
“The intention is to enable retailers to offer ‘virtual try-on’ capabilities and to simplify and enhance the creation of custom eyewear,” a spokesman for the company tells TechCrunch.
He declined to provide specific details on the biometrics applications it is targeting but given the tech enables detailed face scanning — Fuel3D is in the process of developing a “dedicated 270° face scanner” — there’s presumably potential to use it to enhance facial recognition systems.
Although the current stated aim of its face scanner, which uses multiple cameras to capture ear-to-ear data of a person’s face, is for plugging into retail environments, for virtual try-on use-cases, and also to generate accurate facial measurements for facilitating custom eyewear.
Fuel3D’s handheld scanners have been shipped to Kickstarter starters for beta testing but the company is planning a full-scale commercial launch of the device next year.
“This funding round will take Fuel3D through the full commercial launch of our scanner next year, and will allow us to invest in new talent and infrastructure, including growing our operations in the United States,” said CEO Stuart Mead in a statement.
“In tandem with our consumer product development, we will also be using the funding to further develop our intellectual property so that we can capitalize on the ongoing interest we receive from international brands in applying our technology in new verticals beyond 3D printing.”