Portland 3D Printing Lab Tests HP Sprout


The quiet whirring sound emanating from the white turntable as it cycled 360 degrees gently caught attention. It was not the two 3D printers sitting on the same table. For these curious ones, it was not the free food or drink offered by the well-known PDX 3DP Lab meetup. It was the piece of driftwood rotating on the “Capture Stage” on the HP Sprout computer that I took with me to Portland.

If you have not heard of the Sprout, it is HP’s latest invention; an interactive, immersive computing platform that allows you to 3D scan objects (as well as 2D scan, too). HP is a client and I have been testing, and playing, to be candid, with this very cool and powerful system. I will not claim to be an expert, but as part of my efforts, I haul it around when I hang out with different makers, hackers, and inventors. The most fun happens with kids, but also with the educators usually involved with STEM and other learner-based initiatives.


If you are in Portland, Oregon, check out the wonderful PDX 3DP Lab and its community. I’m from Seattle, but they have welcomed me in, anyway…

Back to that whirring sound and the driftwood. After setting up the HP Sprout with its 3D scanning capture stage, I was not able to even place an object on the platform as a demonstration before a 3DP Lab member walked in and immediately sat down in front of the computer. Please know that I am immensely grateful for the enthusiasm of this group and its members.

HP Sprout scanning in motion

Everything went at warp speed after that with 50+ members rolling in and listening as I gave my presentation about some of my favorites from the 3DRV around-the-USA roadtrip (which has since evolved into the GoExplore3D site as an indie project) and the work I am doing with the Sprout to learn how STEM educators (and others in commercial walks of life) immediately think of using this unique approach to blending digital options with reality, morphing analog and digital might express it better. Makerspaces and maker groups are ideal think tanks for what HP calls its #GoMakeThings initiative.

HP Sprout scanning driftwood

First, here are a few technical details about the part that scans your documents and objects. In simplest terms: The Sprout “Illuminator” is the capture and projection system that combines multiple devices – a scanner, depth sensor, hi res camera, and a projector – into a single system to capture and project dimensional images like never before.

Overall, the Sprout has some impressive specs:

  • 23-inch diagonal, 10-point touch-enabled, full HD (1920×1080) wide viewing angle, white-LED backlit LCD display to beautifully showcase your creations.
  • 20-point capacitive touch mat that allows users to capture, create, move and manipulate content using their hands in a manner that is more natural and intuitive.
  • The Sprout Illuminator is powered by a DLP projector and a four-camera sensory system including an HP High-Resolution Camera with up to 14.6 megapixel resolution and the Intel® RealSense™ 3D Camera for instant capture of 2D and 3D objects.

I will note here that the Portland 3D Printing Lab members had more questions than I could answer, but thankfully, the Meetup founder and organizer, Shashi Jain, works for Intel and has more than enough technical chops to pull me out of hot water… The biggest question centered on how the RealSense cameras work, and yes, part of the system is an infrared laser (for the projection system), as Shashi pointed out. In anticipation of more questions, here is the tech spec comparison on the two Intel RealSense cams.

  • Fixed 1 megapixel, 720p HD HP low-light, front-facing webcam.
  • With its fine point and precision disc, the Adonit Jot Pro stylus provides all the accuracy users need, while the magnetic attachment allows easy storage on the Sprout by HP monitor. As a quick side note, I kept looking for this “magnetic attachment” thinking that my loaner unit was incomplete. After a few days, when I couldn’t find any attachment pieces, I held the stylus up next to the screen and wham, it grabbed the side of the monitor. Duh.
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 745A graphics power graphic-intensive tasks like gaming. Even if you take away the cool 3D interactive portion of this system, it is a great stand-alone computer. I like everything about it, although it is heavy and a bit unwieldy to move due to its design.
  • 8GB of RAM standard to effortlessly run several programs at once. Given the other components, the RAM screams along.

The two 3D printers in the background: One is the Dremel IdeaBuilder that you can buy along with the Sprout. The other is a Lulzbot Mini loaner unit from Aleph Objects. It is one of my favorite printers to use. Compact and easy to carry to events. I am waiting to test out The Micro by M3D, which my friend John Biehler reviewed last year here. I’m sure that it will work fine with the Sprout, of course.

Again, here is the link to the Sprout by HP.

Coming back full circle to that whirring sound from the Capture Stage, I found my own mind and heart whirring with ideas, and enthusiasm, for how makers, inventors, and creatives of all types have a ton to offer. If you are a schoolteacher looking for ideas and resources (and maybe just an extra dose of encouragement), I strongly suggest you head over to your area makerspace or find a 3D printing meetup in your area. If you don’t have either of those, start one! The world needs more makerspaces to give us all a chance to #GoMakeThings.

Future Post(s): I am working on a post about the variety of apps on the Sprout as well as a post on how educators might use the system in the classroom. And hopefully, some of my educator friends who have one already will school me on what’s working and what’s not. Should be a good, useful list. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @TJMcCue with ideas or resources you are using.

Full Disclosure (again): HP is a client and that means they pay me for a variety of work, however, they do not control nor approve my reviews or commentary on what I think about their product. The Sprout is on loan to me during one of my projects with them and I willingly take it around to share it with others (mostly on the west coast).

In Category: #GoMakeThings, 3D Printing


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